Reviews in 200 Words

War Dances by Sherman Alexie

In Short Stories/Poetry on January 13, 2010 at 3:41 am

It seems logical that one experience of suffering automatically lends sympathy to another; but that’s just not true. People tend not to associate their pain with others’ pain. Alexie proves this over and over. We’re horrible to each other. We’re all victims at some point and oppressors at some point—we make decisions all the time, every day. Alexie presents the hatred and grudges that we hide in our pockets. Certainly Alexie uses his own childhood experience on the Spokane Indian Reservation—he always does—we expect it. But he also gives unexpected voices, like the son of a Republican Senator who has to confront his own reaction to the news that his best friend is gay. Alexie breaks all the rules and does it so well. The collection itself breaks the rules: poetry and fiction, lists and footnotes. Alexie exposes our weaknesses—our humanness, and proves that we talk in poetry all the time. It proves that while being vengeful and jealous and embarrassed makes us human, so does forgiveness and mercy. The ugliness is there, like 37 innocent men hanging from their necks, but sometimes their death songs are undeniably beautiful, right in the midst of despair.

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