This year, my school has a teacher’s book club. The book list looked promising, with some books I had read before and some books that had been on my radar and so I signed up. This month’s book was The Lone Ranger and Tonoto Fistfight in Heaven, a collection of short stories written by Sherman Alexie, a writer who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in western Washington.
The book is a collection of short stories, some of which feature the same characters. The stories are as much narratives as they are streams of consciousness. The book was a quick read and some of the stories linger in their sadness, and I’ve welcomed the chance to think anew about Native American life in the United States. Some of the stories put me in mind of the time I lived in Nebraska, where there were both Indian reservations and opportunities to experience Indian cultural events (oh, the fry bread!). Alexie’s identity as an Indian is central to the stories and he both reflects on family life among members of his tribe and the larger social setting in which Native Americans travel, sometimes made to feel like foreigners in their own country, on their own land.
I was put in mind of an NPR series about what social service agencies have done to Indian families. And this week, as the president used his bully pulpit to insult and demean Native tribes, Alexie’s stories felt more important than ever. This slim volume was well-worth my time.