Ten Little Indians

by Sherman Alexie

Hardcover, 2003

Call number




The Grove Press (2003), Edition: 1st, 243 pages


Fiction. Literature. Short Stories. HTML: Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist: A "stellar collection" of stories about navigating life off the reservation, filled with laughter and heartbreak (People). In these lyrical, affectionate tales from the author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, characters navigate the crossroads of culture, battle stereotypes, and find themselves through everything from politics to basketball. Richard, the narrator of "Lawyer's League," grows up in Seattle, the son of "an African American giant who played defensive end for the University of Washington Huskies" and "a petite Spokane Indian ballerina." A woman is caught in a restaurant when a suicide bomb goes off in "Can I Get a Witness." And Estelle Walks Above (n�e Estelle Miller), studies her way off the Spokane Indian Reservation and goes on to both enjoy and resent the company of the white women of Seattle�who see her as a shamanic genius, and look to her for guidance on everything from sex and fashion to spirituality. These and the other "warm, revealing, invitingly roundabout stories" in Ten Little Indians run the gamut from earthy wit to sobering emotional truth, mapping the outer reaches of the human heart (The New York Times Book Review). From a New York Times�bestselling and National Book Award�winning author, these tales, "rambunctious and exuberant, bristle with an edgy and mordant humor" (Chicago Tribune). This ebook features an illustrated biography including rare photos from the author's personal collection..… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member delphica
(#43 in the 2003 Book Challenge)

Nine stories by Mr. Alexie, each featuring a Native American character or characters (I'm thinking the author himself is the tenth Indian). Let me say upfront that I very much like this author, although somehow I was expecting more from this book. Also, I keep
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thinking he's going to try another novel (his rookie novel, Reservation Blues was excellent) so I was a little surprised when I heard this, his latest, was more short stories. Mind you, he's good at short stories, but I just know he's got another great novel in there somewhere (and it wasn't Indian Killer, either). Let it out, Sherman, let it out!

Grade: B+, bordering on A-. Two of the stories on their own get a solid A.
Recommended: I'd give this a positive general recommendation to just about anyone, esp. anyone who is interested in present-day Native American experiences, as opposed to Daniel Day Lewis type sentimental stuff.
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LibraryThing member mdbrady
Sherman Alexie’s short stories in Ten Little Indians are brilliant, subtle, hilarious, sad, and utterly irreverent.

I found Alexie to be as great a writer as I have been hearing that he is. With his sharp touch, he explores the contradictions within his characters, Indian and non-Indian alike. In
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critical jargon, he “destabilizes” their identity, asking what does it mean to be an Native American, white, or anything else. He writes about people on the edges of their cultures. And in depicting the contradictions and complexes of his characters, Alexie lays bare those of his readers.

But however Alexie complicates our sense of who we are, his characters never lose their unique Indian identity and their sense that white America has somehow cheated them. Several find ways to translate their bitterness into humor. They never join the amorphous, patriotic, white blob, with which the Tucson school authorities seek obliterate their students’ sense of ethnic identity and oppression, as reported by Gary Young of The Nation magazine.

In any set of short stories, we have favorites, the stories that touch us most deeply. One of my favorites in this collection was about an Indian boy’s mother and the weird group of white women who idealized her and tried to be like her. A cautionary tale for all of us white women. Another was the wonderfully drawn Indian in his pin-striped suit and braids off on a flight both afraid of terrorists and of being considered a terrorist.

My favorite story was about the young college woman who loved books and reading. She is grateful to white teachers, “their whiteness and their goodness blending and separating,” who had helped her know find what she needed to read and learn. She is a “resourceful thief, a narcissistic Robin Hood who sold a rich education from white people and kept it.” At her college library,

The huge number of books confirmed how much magic she’d been denied for most of her life, and now she hungrily wanted to read every book on every shelf.

Her love of poetry by whites is derided by her much-loved father and uncles, and she struggles with being an Indian who loves poetry by white Englishmen. Then she discovers a book of poetry by a man from her own tribe…and the story goes on from there.

I don’t expect those who ban books to be sophisticated thinkers, but I found this selection of theirs particularly ironic. This is anything but a virulent book urging hatred of whites, such as I could expect them to ban. Instead it challenges us to think about the lines we try to draw between categories like red, white, and black. Perhaps, challenging, but not removing, those lines is the most subversive thing anyone can do—and Alexie does it well.

I heartily recommend this book to everyone.
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LibraryThing member stephxsu
Wow. Wow wow wow. Sherman Alexie is a brilliant writer. His humor comes effortlessly, his characters are vivid and three-dimensional, and all of his stories are relatable, yet infused with all the uniqueness that the Spokane Indian culture delivers to its characters--the good and the bad. I found
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that some of the stories, jokes, and themes got a bit repetitive as the collection went along, but overall I am deeply satisfied with my first Alexie read, and will definitely be checking out this author's other works!
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LibraryThing member kaelirenee
There is hardly a topic Alexie didn’t cover in his collection of short stories. Infidelity, book lust and author obsession, September 11, racism, first loves and true loves, fear, passion, grief, death, menstruation—all these come up in these simple and simply wonderful stories. He manages to
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control his reader’s emotions so well in his carefully crafted stories. Just as “Do not go gently” got me choked up and about ready to cry, the story completely changes to surrealistic hilarity. “Can I get a witness” was so good at wrapping me up in the importance of banal interactions, I jumped in my seat when the action started happening.
I almost stopped reading because of the first story, “Search Engine.” He wrote such a bad stereotype of a librarian, I though “Gee, is he going to paint everyone with this broad a brush?” But he even flipped that notion on its head. Now, I think that’s my favorite story in the bunch. “The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above” is a story that started with such a vulgar but frank tone, I wondered if I wanted to keep reading it, but his description of a mother/son relationship was so perfect in how odd it was. I’m sure we’d all love to write our mothers a letter like the one he thinks up.

I highly recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member JimCherry
Ten Little Indians is a book of nine short stories by Sherman Alexie each dealing with trying to come to terms with lives that are no longer traditional and they need to fit into American culture. Each story is linked not by characters or even setting (even though all the stories are set in
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Seattle), but by ideas and themes.

The most obvious example are the Indians (that’s what they call themselves) in the stories are searching for new ceremonies for the lives they lead outside of tribal systems, outside of their traditions, and trying to assimilate into the urban west of the 21st Century. Significantly, the first story is titled “The Search Engine.” From Corliss in “Search Engine” to Frank Snake Church in “Whatever Happened to Frank Snake Church?” all the characters are searching for new ceremonies in their lives or to adapt some of their traditional ones to modern life. They work and live in an assimilated world. Something is missing in their lives. As they try to put their finger on it they discover it’s the lack of the traditional life they all have memories of or that is only a generation removed and their parents or grandparents told them about.

Most of the characters discover the same solution to their problem by creating new ceremonies and rituals for the lives they lead. Corliss in “The Search Engine” is very aware of creating new rituals as she tracks down a native American poet who doesn’t turn out to be all that she imagines him to be. “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” is almost a fairy tale of a homeless alcoholic Indian and his quest to redeem at least a part of his traditional heritage and what at first seems to be a growing tragedy transcends that altogether and becomes something quite unexpected.

Don’t let all this talk of ritual and searching for new ceremonies deter you. The stories have humor to them. Not only do the characters have a cynical outlook on themselves or a sarcastic remark to comment on their situation, but Alexie invests the stories with humor and has fun with the characters. You can tell upon reading that Alexie likes his characters. Even when the characters don’t act so nice it’s evident that Alexie respects the characters and has a certain amount of sympathy for the people in the portraits he’s rendering.

While the stories are all of Indians, there are a few Anglos that enter their worlds. What turns the stories to the universal is that the search for new ceremonies for the new world we’ve created isn’t exclusively an Indian pursuit. Today more and more people turn to Native American culture and religion (the last ultimate act of assimilation?) to find their answers in life and we’re passing each other in the opposite direction looking for the same thing.
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LibraryThing member incognito
I really enjoyed this short story collection; the characters are varied and thoroughly fleshed-out.
LibraryThing member cerievans1
This short story collection focuses on eleven different Indians living different lives in North America, mostly in Washington State and in particular in Seattle. The stories include a focus on a college student obsessed by English literature who encounters a Spokane Indian poet, a homeless man who
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sees his grandmother's dancing outfit in the window of a pawn shop and tries all day to raise $1000 to buy it, a potential basketball star who gave up pursuing professional basketball to honour the death of his mother, an aspiring politician, the relationship between a mother who is adored for her Indian identity by middle class Seattle white women and who hates this, and her adoring son. The stories are really interesting and reveal that having embraced modern life, Indian principles remain fundamental. Four stars.
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LibraryThing member fglass
This a collection (10) of masterfully told short stories. Each story draws you into its world. The characters are based on American Indians of the Spokane tribe. This is the first time I've had the opportunity to read this author or any author who could give me a sense of the voice of the modern
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American Indian.
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LibraryThing member theblindlibrarian
Sherman Alexie writes from the heart. In this book of short stories, he tells nine different tales of contemporary northwest indian culture. One gets the feeling that his own life is wrapped up and hidden somewhere within many of them. Or perhaps he was sitting and listening to the stories of
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others, and they became pages in their turn.

The stories open up a piece of society that we (the non-indians) wrap either in a cloak of mysticism or in a burlap bag to hide away. Alexie says, No, wait. Look at who this person really is. Here's what you think you know, and here is what is real. Deal with it.

Laugh, cry, then laugh some more. Then pick up a mirror.
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LibraryThing member BradKautz
Ten Little Indians is a gem of a book that sat unread on my book shelf for a long time, perhaps too long. I have no idea when I acquired it but I am glad to have read it now rather than at some earlier point in the ten years since it was published, for reasons I shall make clear shortly.

Alexie is a
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masterful storyteller. I first heard of him a number of years ago, in relation to his screenplay, Smoke Signals, and the movie that was made from it. Alexie is Native American and the central characters in this collection of short stories are all Native Americans from the same tribe as his own. Like Alexie, the characters have grown up on the reservation and then relocated to Seattle. Using these common elements as a starting point Alexie takes his characters through a wide swath of life adventures, some elements of which are based in Native American culture and other parts are more universal, or generic 21st century American culture.

Having recently moved onto a reservation for vocational reasons I had a different understanding of the way in which he portrayed influences of Native American culture in shaping his characters and their subsequent interaction with non-Natives off of the reservation than I would have had a few months ago. While I have been warmly welcomed here there are some ways in which I will always be an outsider, no matter how many years I stay. His characters, long time residents of the city, remain outsiders while living in their own homeland.

I picked Ten Little Indians off my shelf figuring it was finally time to read it and send on to someone else. I was delighted by the stories and characters within its pages and may find myself seeking out Alexie again.
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LibraryThing member Carissa.Green
Maybe even 5 stars . . . I waffle. These short stories are far more character-driven than plot-driven, but they are fine character studies indeed. Here are Alexie's familiar Spokane, but mostly a set of "urban" Indians, recognizing and dealing with their place in more than one culture. They are
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literate, funny, educated, striving, loving, interesting people. And Alexie peppers in lots of his familiar wit and pathos. This was a fun book to dip in and out of, maybe not the emotional effect of some of his other writing, but I enjoyed it and recommend it. -cg
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LibraryThing member MelanieTid
I love every book I've read from Sherman Alexie and this one is just added to the list.
The collection of short stories can speak to people from all walks of life with their own struggles, and I loved them all. Well, I didn't like the one that focused around basketball, but that is just because of
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my personal aversion.
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LibraryThing member Salsabrarian
Nine short stories featuring Spokane Indian characters including: WSU student Corliss who tracks down the obscure Spokane Indian author of a book of poetry; Richard, a half-black, half-Indian tribe liaison in Governor Locke's office who gets in a fight with a white prosecutor during a pickup
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basketball game; Estelle Walks Above, man's spirited, feisty mother; and college sweethearts who marry and stay married despite the man's lie and Sharon's infidelity.
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LibraryThing member ozzie65
I have had a few Sherman Alexie books sitting in my book piles but this one popped to the top of my Nook pile so I dug in and got started. This is a short story compilation. The common theme that ties each of the stories together is that the main character, regardless of gender, is a Native
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American aboriginal of the Spokane Tribe.

My favorite was “Whatever Happened to Frank Snake Church” about a high school basketball player in later life. But in truth, I quite liked them all. Most of them are set in and around Seattle and explore all kinds of generational views and conflicts in the Native American experience.

There is something for everyone in this slim volume. Sherman Alexie is a Northwest treasure that rarely gets the amount of exposure he deserves. I believe he has a loyal local following and I know at least one of his books has been made into a motion picture.

This is a solid but slim volume, perfect for short story readers or fans of Northwest story telling. 3 ½ stars.
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LibraryThing member ffortsa
I am in a state of bliss. What a collection of stories! What a voice! I started this book last night and read right through it, pulled along by the amazing characters in these stories. Alexie is by turns wry, sarcastic, realistic, full of pain and laughter, showing people in paih, in love, trying
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to find their way, trying to lose themselves. I loved every page.
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
If the idea of countdowns or running of out time makes you anxious, this short story might make the sweat bead on your brow just a little. The main protagonist, Jackson Jackson, spots his grandmother Agnes's stolen powwow regalia in a pawnshop window. She had lost her battle with breast cancer so
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the regalia is all that the grandson would have left of her...if he can get it back. The shop owner makes a deal to sell back the regalia for $1,000. There is only one problem. No one Jackson Jackson knows has $1,000. As an additional gesture of kindness, the pawnshop owner gives the grandson twenty bucks and twenty-four hours to come up with the rest of the cash. The clock is ticking, however the twenty immediately vanishes in the form of "three bottles of imagination." It might infuriate the reader but subsequently every time Jackson comes into money it is frittered away on something else. Hamburgers vomited back up. Losing lottery tickets. A cigar that will only burn away to nothing. Drinks with strangers. A round for everyone at the bar. But it is the kindness of strangers that gives our hero a break.
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LibraryThing member LibroLindsay
I'm still trying to figure out how to say this:

The thing I like best about short story collections (by a single author), if they're written well and compiled well, is the feeling I get, after reading each story, of comprehending an intimate secret the author needed me to understand. Poetry and
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novels both can (and do) knock me out, but there's something about the short story that can really get into my blood.

I am in love with this book. I couldn't get enough of it while I was reading it. It accompanied me almost everywhere I went this weekend, and when I thought maybe, for social reasons (and reducing the weight of my purse from being a lethal weapon), I should leave it at home for just a few hours, I obsessed over its absence like a phantom limb or shiny, new lover. I held it like a teddy bear going to sleep at night. I wanted to absorb it into my skin, and I feel this immense sense of guilt for refiling it back onto the bookshelf. I'd rather frame it.

Every story contains characters and situations that are tender, profane, and hilarious all at once, and each constantly evaded my expectations by achieving something far greater than anything I could have imagined. I'm not much for spoilers though I hate to not discuss every story for its brilliance, but it seems a little much to tally everything I loved about each story here. I don't recall enjoying The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven as much, but it has been several years and this experience has caused me to seriously consider rereading it.

I think you should read this book.
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LibraryThing member Dorritt
What's novel about this collection of short stories is the way they explore the lived experiences of Native Americans (specifically, members of the Spokane tribe) in the modern world. Not to represent that the stories are particularly realistic - Alexie, exercising his prerogative as a writer,
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takes the liberty of placing his Native American characters in situations optimized to explore specific themes - but the challenges they face feel culturally and psychologically authentic.

Some of the tales deal explicitly with the struggle to integrate Native American traditions and values into the modern world, like the first story in the collection, "The Search Engine," in which a college student's pursuit of a Native American beatnik poet morphs into a modern-day vision quest. Or "Do Not Go Gentle," in which a Native American couple with a desperately ill child find comfort and healing in an extremely unusual totem. Or "Lawyer's League," in which an aspiring mixed-race lawyer weighs the extent to which he's going to need to compromise his pride in order to win the trust of an intolerant world. Or my favorite story in the collection, "What You Pawn I Will Redeem," in which a homeless Native American man goes on a quest to buy back his dignity (the stolen regalia of his grandmother, rediscovered in a pawn shop) but who is, in the end, saved by his own inherent dignity.

But others relate experiences that are more universal. For instance, in "Can I Get a Witness?" a woman who survives a terrorist explosion that forces her to confront her temptation to explode her entire life - who among us hasn't wondered what it would feel like to blow up everything we have and start over? In "The Life of Times of Estelle Walks Above", a young man struggles to accept that his mother could be both extraordinary and flawed. In "Do You Know Where I Am?" a man reflects on back on a marriage in which "contentment always ran slightly ahead of dissatisfaction". In "What Ever Happened to Frank Snake Church," a former high school basketball phenom struggles to cope with the grief of his parent's death and the gradual dissolution of his own dreams. Disappointment, frustration, grief ... themes that Alexie handles with a combination of deft storytelling, psychological integrity, and copious quantities of sarcasm, which may or may not be a Native American thing ("The two funniest tribes I've ever been around are Indians and Jews, so I guess that says something about the inherent humor of genocide" - a quote from "What I Pawn"), but is definitely an Alexie thing.

While the tales range from bitter to funny, poignant to heartbreaking, they collectively deliver an experience that feels fierce but wise (words I employ reluctantly, as skewering Native American archetypes is another Alexie specialty), dark but also hopeful.
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LA Times Book Prize (Finalist — Fiction — 2003)




0802117449 / 9780802117441
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