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Showing 1-10 of 198 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 356 reviews
on July 27, 2015
These stories are interconnected by a core set of characters who don't get anywhere by mainstream standards, but don't get overwhelmed by their lack of success because they didn't expect much to begin with. This leaves the reader with an uneasy sense of optimism that arises from the narrative's suspension of conventional norms about how to communicate or interact with others. Couldn't anything be possible when there are no apparent guidelines about how to live a life? Even some of the supernatural happenings described begin to seem plausible, given the author's gift of seamlessly blending tangible and spiritual elements into his storytelling. The always dysfunctional, often disturbing and sometimes hilariously funny behavior described drives home what growing up Indian in contemporary American society might feel like. At the same time, I can't help drawing a few parallels between growing up half a century ago in a frequently inebriated Irish family. Great storytelling would seem to be a universal refuge from chaos on the home front no matter what cultural crucible defines you.
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on February 14, 2015
In this 20th anniversary edition the stories of Sherman Alexie ring ever as personal, lyrical and insightful as they did two decades ago. Having grown up just next door to the setting of these tales in Pend Oreille County, the scenes and city were as clear in my mind as ever. What was new when I first read it and again in reading this edition, was the peak into a very real and enduringly dynamic Native American culture. What Alexie is able to do in these context of these stories is open the reader up to the complex personhood behind the stereotypes; behind the rhetoric. I remember reading this as a young man in High School and how, even then, Thomas Builds-the-Fire spoke to me. Alexie acknowledges more readily now the autobiographical nature of these stories in many ways and it is in him we see not just Vincent but Thomas. Thomas was the modern day historian and wise man of the tribe though no one was willing to see it. He spoke the stories and words that needed to be spoken and needed to be heard both inside and outside of the reservation. Alexie does that as well, in this and in other books, capturing snapshots that speak to the humanity of history and its inherent subjectivity. This is what storytelling should be, telling us what we need to know that we had not realized and were even perhaps intent on avoiding. Things will never be what they were for any culture prior to expansionism, but hey, there is always a rising basketball star to put our hopes in. Worth getting the Anniversary Edition just for the final two additional stories.
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on July 12, 2017
Sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly; good vs bad. The road to destruction and yet a life of dreams where "imagination" takes you to places unknown. I feel that the author does not expect everyone to react well to this book as it is very vivid ! As he says "the pressure of straddling two worlds.
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on October 12, 2015
I was inspired to read this after seeing the film "Smoke Signals." I found the collection of short stories enjoyable and accessible. In an age when many people substitute politics as a pseudo religion, using stories as a form of veiled ideological evangelism, Alexie sticks to telling us stories of those he's known and grown up with. No "Indian spiritual and good/white man money-lover and bad" stereotypical dynamic here; just interesting stories of people in a different and complex American culture. On a personal note, when the stories were somewhat 'trip' and surrealistic, I didn't enjoy them as much. But that's just a matter of taste. The majority of these were right up my alley, and a good, solid bout of my kind of storytelling.
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VINE VOICEon November 14, 2013
I will confess to having known almost nothing about this book before buying it. "Native American" writing is sometimes filled with spiritualism, and with rare exceptions I avoid the stuff.

However, Sherman Alexie gave a great interview in the New York Times book review last month, full of warmth and humor, and expressing a personal dislike of "Native American" books himself. He won my admiration and I decided he had earned my book purchase.

To me, this book seems to have a lot in common with Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," in that it's fiction, but uses fiction to tell deeper truths than might have been possible with a strict work of nonfiction. Also, like "The Things They Carried," this is a collection of short stories, but with so much overlap in themes and characters and setting that it more-or-less tells a single story.

It's a story about childhood, and being an Indian (Alexie uses the word freely, so I'm going to use it here), and growing up on the "rez." And it's a story about a world drenched with alcohol and drug abuse. I found "The Trial of Thomas Builds-the-Fire" and "Jesus Christ's Half-Brother is Alive and Well on the Spokane Indian Reservation" to be the strongest pieces in the collection.

Some of the characters in some of these stories experience victory, but for the most part they're stuck in a difficult place, far from the centers of commerce and culture, jealous of their ancestors, bitter at their contemporaries, proud even when there don't seem to be any concrete accomplishments to be proud of. I've lived in areas with significant Native American populations, but I think my empathy is much deeper for having read this collection than it could possibly have been before.

This is the 20th Anniversary Edition, and it includes two introductory essays. One is an e-mailed dialog between Alexie and a fellow Native American Writer. This is forgettable. The other is Alexie's reminiscences about publishing his first collection of poems, and how against incredible odds it was picked up by the New York Times Book Review and given a glowing review, and how totally his life changed as a result. This collection was his follow-up to that small book of poems. I am glad this essay was included, to remind us that, for all the injustice and difficulties in this country, including those experienced by Indians living on reservations, sometimes America does deliver on its promise.
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on May 6, 2017
An excellent collection of stories related to reservation life. I grew up on a different reservation. The similarities are amazing.
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on February 9, 2016
“How can we imagine a new language when the language of the enemy keeps our dismembered tongues tied to his belt? How can we imagine a new alphabet when the old jumps off billboards down into our stomachs?” -Alexie
Alexie’s description of life as a Native American in "Tonto and the Lone Ranger Fistfight in Heaven", gives a portrayal of the people as a conglomeration of how they see themselves and how the media portrayal of Indians have influenced “white people” and “Indians” and told them both who Indians were.
This is an incredible work. A must read.
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on May 16, 2013
While living in Salt Lake City, Utah, I had the pleasure to be the Director of the Aftercare and Outpatient Program for the Indian Alcohol Counseling and Residential Treatment Program. ( A white woman from the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania.) What a wonderful experience. I learned so very much about our indigenous people. Mr Alexie's stories go right to the heart of life on and off of the "rez" . I love his storytelling and his humor. I would love to meet him one day. I am going to the 2013 Northern Ute Celebration in Fort Duchesne, Utah and I am hoping to see the many friends that I have made and who live on the rez. I love the laughing, singing and dancing. Everyone is so real - it's great.
Janet A. Kunz, LCAC
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on October 12, 2014
Alexie's first book is a series of connected short stories that take place on the Spokane Indian Reservation. This was Alexie's first book and is autobiographical. The reader feels the despair and alienation of living on the rez, and the disdain that some non-Indians have for the Native Americans. The writing has a down-to-earth, but poetic ring that draws one into the lives of the various characters. My favorite character was Thomas Builds-the-Fire, the storyteller, who is put on trial by the BIA because he has "a storytelling fetish accompanied by an extreme need to tell the truth. Dangerous." The ebook edition has photos of the author as a child with his family as well as a prologue that's an email exchange between author Jess Walter and Sherman Alexie.
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on November 30, 2011
"Mr. Alexie's is one of the major lyric voices of our time" New York Times Book Review editor Rich Nicholls wrote of Alexie after reading his work The Business of Fancydancing. Alexie opens The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven with this recollection, and I have to agree after reading his short story collection. Alexie shines light on the life of modern Indians, and all the tragedy and humor that goes along with growing up on a reservation. The twenty-four stories in this collection all center around Indians on the Spokane reservation and the different incidents that occur. Alexie writes with such intimacy about his characters that it becomes obvious some of these stories must be based in memory. Through his fiction Alexie manages to bring up painful issues of alcoholism and family strains that ring true for many in reservation life.
The characters in Alexie's stories are the real gems of the collection. Victor and Thomas Builds-the-Fire stand out the most, as Victor narrators a majority of the stories either through first or third person. I felt the strongest stories in this collection centered on Victor and his family, whether it was dealing with the absence of his alcoholic father or his own alcoholism in later stories. Even though as a reader I had no experience with Indian Reservation life, through Alexie's exploration of personal relationships I connected with the characters. Thomas Builds-the-Fire, with his endless story telling, added amazing depth to the stories with references to Indian history and insight into the past. For readers not familiar with the past grievances between whites and Indians (Custer and Wounded Knee for example), some passages involving Thomas Builds-the-Fire might be slightly confusing. At times Alexie shifts from the present to the past without any warning, but this only makes the reader think more. Also, the weaving of the past and present adds demonstrates the importance of tradition for Indian culture. Overall, what gripped me about Alexie's story collection was how each story seamlessly flowed into the next while also being able to stand on its own. These stories could be read out of order or individually without losing any of their importance or meaning. My personal favorite, "Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play `The Star-Spangled Banner"" uses a song to weave a tragic story of Victor's father abandoning him. It is the raw emotion; it is the ability of Alexie to allow his characters to admit their true feelings; it is Alexie's bravery to address controversial issues, that carries this collection.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is a powerful collection that celebrates the differences between Indians, while never forgetting the shared tragedy that links them. The unique stories, from betraying friends on rollercoasters to missing the winning basketball shot, demonstrate the complexity of the characters and the choices they must make. Alexie writes with such sharpness that readers can feel the haze of alcohol, can sense the ghosts of the past, and understand the importance of traditions they might have never known before reading this collection. This is one of the most eye-opening and magical collections and should be considered not just one of the most important books in Native American literature but American literature.
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