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Sherman Alexie A Native American Writer

1496 words - 6 pages

Sherman Alexie has made a name for himself as a prolific contemporary Native American writer, taking inspiration from his own past and experiences with modern Indian life. While there are many enduring themes throughout Alexie's writings: Native identity, modern reservation life, alcohol abuse etc. when it comes to his collection War Dances, the most apparent motif is fatherhood. Community and family are the heart of Native American cultures, with the father archetype holding great honor and expectation. However with alcohol abuse, poverty, and school drop rates running rampant through Native American reservations it is no surprise that more and more Native children are growing up in broken homes. In an alarming poll by the Kids Count Data Center, a national census, in 2011 out of 355,000 polled 53% live in single-parent homes. The lack of a leader, a strong male role model is a major factor in many of the abysmal statistics facing modern reservation children. The despotism of Native American culture has always been based on the deprivation of power, status, equality, and home. This presents a paucity of male dominance, many of these men feel helpless in a society where they have no real identity. They are forced to live in the idea they have no personal potential so it is understandable why the majority of Indian males may feel inadequate and unable to care for their families. Alexie himself struggled in a home with an alcoholic and neglectful father, and like many Native children he almost gave into a similar chain of abuse and alcoholism. This is what inspires him to write, to expose the corroding inner workings of the modern Native peoples brought on by centuries of autocracy. Oppression and the idea of fatherhood is a common thread throughout War Dances, presented in pieces such as “The Senator’s Son” and “After Building The Lego Star Wars Ultimate Death Star”. It is most clearly defined in the short story “War Dances”, for which the collection is named. Through “War Dances” Alexie not only reflects on his own experiences, but uses them as a vessel to expose the decay of the ideology of fatherhood plaguing Native communities all over the country.
In an informative interview journalist Billy Moyers asks Alexie if his writing is cathartic; in which he replies “I think it can be healing for readers...but my own words for myself I don't think so.” (Moyers & Company). In his works Alexie explores deep wounds not for healing, but as a means to sacrifice himself and foray the absolutism of the 'white man'. In a new warrior fashion he uses the power of story to his advantage. “War Dances” maybe the most blatant example as it touches many personal aspects especially Alexie's struggle with illness and of course the relationship with his father. While this story may not be curative for Alexie it is most definitely a meditation. The story covers the course of life, from birth to death (Russell). The narrator is suddenly stricken with a disease that...

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