Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories

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Sherman Alexie's stature as a writer of stories, poems, and novels has soared over the course of his twenty-book, twenty-year career. His wide-ranging, acclaimed stories from the last two decades, from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven to his most recent PEN/Faulkner award-winning War Dances, have established him as a star in modern literature. A bold and irreverent observer of life among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, the daring, versatile, funny, and outrageous Alexie showcases all his talents in ...

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BobReviews

Apr 22, 2013

Open Your Eyes

I had never heard of Sherman Alexie until one week ago. He was a guest on the PBS show Bill Moyers Journal. He was plugging his book, the one being reviewed here, ?Blasphemy?. On the show he offered his own Native-American perspective, calling Mount Rushmore ?silly?. In the book, (which is a collection of short stories), he has a lot more to say about living in the land conquered by Europeans.
The blues are all around us. If you scratch beneath the surface, (past the wall of Madison Avenue propaganda); you will find the victims. Americans hate losers. We like to blame them for all of our social ills. We like to make a point of rubbing education in the faces of the destitute, (while raising the tuition rates); as if everyone would be employed tomorrow if only they all had degrees.
At times I get very depressed about the disappearing middle class. I see a vanishing way of life. My Beaver Cleaver childhood, (more idealized than real), is gone with the G.I. Bill. Millions of Baby Boomers are being cast adrift; vanishing savings, non-existent employment, and social programs under attack.
Welcome to the rez. Don?t expect much sympathy from ethnic groups that are down on the bottom waiting for us to join them. For years, (ever since the dawning of the civil rights movement), we have been warned about the cost of inequality. We did not heed the advice. Now we can all fight over the scraps.
Mr. Alexie has been there already, (at least intellectually). To quote Bill Clinton, he ?feels the pain?. His characters, (whether on the reservation or not), are swimming for their lives, (or away from them). They all seem to be in one state of delusion or another, (because, ultimately, that is how we all get on with it). But go on they do. American Indians have been slaughtered and marginalized. They have been forced off their land and cheated out of their country. They have been ?Americanized? in mission schools and beaten in classrooms. They find themselves, more often than not, in possession of the worst land, (part of the treaty ?deals?). They do have a choice; emigrate into European-American ?society?, or remain where they are. And that is the rub. The conflict of assimilation is what lies at the heart of this book. To be or not to be, that is the question. In view of what does not exist anymore, (in the way of opportunity); does it make any difference either way? Is it better to starve in the city or subsist in the country? But human nature will always be restless until desires are fulfilled. And for the young, an effort has to be made.

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