Sherman Alexie also provides great text.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
explores the issue of reservation life. The book was made into a movie,
. This book is a collection of short stories told by various narrators who live on a reservation. The storytellers link all the stories in some way. Alexie does a wonderful job of satirizing life on the reservation, as well as poignantly showing the hardships and problems faced by Native Americans on the reservation. The stories are sad, funny, and angry all at the same time. The themes in the book are redeeming tradition, storytelling, basketball as the new religion of the reservation, heroes, and family relationships.
A few of the stories have curse words, so I need to be careful and get parental consent. Or I might not use those particular stories. Basketball plays a big part of reservation life and of the stories. A good basketball player is a modern hero, and both men and women can play it well. But, as just published in June's 17, 2001 Sunday New York Times, the article "Off-Field Hurdles Stymie Indian Athletes" discusses how Native Americans are underrepresented in the NBA and college basketball, because for many - it is hard to get off the reservation. Alexie discusses this problem. Alexie calls basketball the new religion. This is a way of reclaiming the past in a modern way. He also reclaims the past by creating artificial traditions to take over the past ones. Car stealing replaces horse stealing as a way for a young Indian to gain honor. Alexie is making a statement that the past world was sacred and he knows that the modern deeds are so small in comparison. He explains the gap satirically. In one sense he is mourning the loss of meaningful traditions, but in another way, he is trying to redeem them too. He is telling a story, as storytelling is a way of reclaiming the past. Thomas is the storyteller in the book. He has the gift and is connected to this tradition of orally recording history.
Because the book is pretty easy reading, I'm going to have the students read the book quickly. This is the kind of material that needs to be analyzed closely, and that is my priority. There are subtleties in the stories that the students will appreciate once understood. It is an important skill for students to be able to read something and pick out lines or phrases that convey something vital to the theme of the story or about a character. These stories are an excellent opportunity for students to work on this skill, because there is so much in each story. They can learn how to do a close reading and hone in their critical thinking skills.