Short stories are the souffles of literary work; quick and short, rush and it will flatten, leave too long, it will burn. Sherman Alexie is truly a chef who has mastered the art of creating characters that we meet for about a half of an hour, yet are able to savor for a lifetime.
Alexie, a Native American who grew up on a reservation, is an author renowned for his writing skills just as much as for his controversial and personal topics. The Native American writer is so rare, his perspective, a crucial part in the making of American identity, is renowned in the literary community, as well as the world. Racial and cultural notability aside, Alexie’s writing has earned him more than 15 awards. He has written and directed 4 movies included in the Sundance movie festival.
Through his “War Dances”, a series of short stories and poems, Alexie not only questions what it means to be Native American in the America, but what it means to be a person, anywhere. Son of an alcoholic father and a victim of seizures and bullying, Alexie gives us this piece, “War Dances”, that melds lines between fiction and bone-chilling autobiographical facts and moments. Through snarkiness, laughs and an occasional session of somberness, Alexie allows the reader to fully his word for word, masterpiece.
These stories, some told in first person, others in the third, are like dreams. You can’t really tell how long you’ve known the character once you’ve flipped the first page .You don’t remember when you started, but you know exactly where you are. Alexie’s short stories have their readers afraid to turn the page, for fear a connection with the character would be over, like a friend you met during a week-long vacation.
There is something relatable in every character. I, an African American girl felt akin to the Native American man who killed a black teen. Alexie doesn’t just convey the pain of the main character. In every story, he shows how the entire world around them begins to crumble, and at times with a hilarious prose.
Alexie’s satire is not overt. Every sentence does not blame America for the Native American people’s condition. When he chooses to address the situation (in about 3 stories), there is a subtlety that challenges the reader as a person to criticize the character, as well as themselves. Any reader who enjoys a book that does not answer questions, but rebirths age-old ones and challenges the world around them, as well as their universal truths, should pick up “War Dances”.