The Toughest Indian in the World

The Toughest Indian in the World

by Sherman Alexie


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May 2000

The Toughest Indian in the World

Sherman Alexie has been acclaimed by Time as "one of the better new novelists, Indian or otherwise," and his books have been compared to those of Richard Wright and James Baldwin in their immense lyric power and revolutionary spirit. Now he returns to the short story, in his first new collection since the bestseller The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

In these stories we meet the kind of American Indians we rarely see in literature -- the upper and middle class, the professionals and white-collar workers, the bureaucrats and poets, falling in and out of love and wondering if they will make their way home. A Spokane Indian journalist transplanted from the reservation to the city picks up a hitchhiker, a Lummi boxer looking to take on the toughest Indian in the world. A Spokane son waits for his diabetic father to return from the hospital, listening to his father's friends argue about Jesus' carpentry skills as they build a wheelchair ramp. An estranged interracial couple, separated in the midst of a traffic accident, rediscover their love for each other. A white drifter holds up an International House of Pancakes, demanding a dollar per customer and someone to love, and emerges with $42 and an overweight Indian he dubs Salmon Boy.

Sherman Alexie's is a voice of remarkable passion, and these stories are love stories -- between parents and children, white people and Indians, movie stars and ordinary people. Witty, tender, and fierce, The Toughest Indian in the World is a virtuoso performance by one of the country's finest writers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780871138019
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 04/28/2000
Pages: 238
Product dimensions: 5.85(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.96(d)

About the Author

Sherman Alexie is a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian. He has written nine books of poems and two collections of stories and is the author of the novels Reservation Blues and Indian Killer. He also wrote the award-winning screenplay for Smoke Signals, a film based on his short story collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

Read an Excerpt

From "The Sin Eaters"

I dreamed about war on the night before the war began, and though nobody officially called it a war until years later, I woke that next morning with the sure knowledge that the war, or whatever they wanted to call it, was about to begin and that I would be a soldier in a small shirt.

On that morning, the sun rose and bloomed like blood in a glass syringe. The entire Spokane Indian Reservation and all of its people and places were clean and scrubbed. The Spokane River rose up from its bed like a man who had been healed and joyously wept all the way down to its confluence with the Columbia River. There was water everywhere: a thousand streams interrupted by makeshift waterfalls; small ponds hidden beneath a mask of thick fronds and anonymous blossoms; blankets of dew draped over the shoulders of isolated knolls. An entire civilization of insects lived in the mud puddle formed by one truck tire and a recent rainstorm. The blades of grass, the narrow pine needles, and the stalks of roadside wheat were as sharp and bright as surgical tools.

Table of Contents

The Toughest Indian in the World
South By Southwest
The Sin Eaters
Indian Country
Saint Junior
Dear John Wayne
One Good Man

What People are Saying About This

Dinitia Smith

"Hard-edged and urban, distinctly individual . . . The characters in Mr. Alexie's work are not the usual kind of Indians. . . . They are not tragic victims or noble savage. . . . They listen to Jimi Hendrix and Hank Williams; they dream of being basketball stars . . . . And unlike most Indians in fiction, they are sometimes funny."

Bruce Barcott

"The world's first fast-talking, wisecracking, mediagenic American Indian superstar . . . His characters carry the uneasy burden of racism with a resigned form of black humor."

Jan Warner-Poole

I love Alexie's writing. These stories will make the reader cry, smile, or be terrified. A beautiful collection of love stories; the prose is biting, ironic, tender, but never dull or plain. Sometimes disturbing, it is a joy to read.
—Jan Warner-Poole, Wayside Books, Battle Ground, WA

Leslie Marmon Silko

"Make no mistake: Alexie's talent is immense and genuine. . . . On this big Indian reservation we call 'the United States,' Sherman Alexie is one of the best writers we have."

Customer Reviews

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The Toughest Indian in the World 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
allison.sivak on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I started to read this as a novel, not short stories, so I followed a different mind-map of where I thought it was all leading. I particularly loved the title story, and "Saint Junior." "Saint Junior" felt like a beautiful sense of Indian family and love, different than any other I have read. Sexy and real.
justjill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Liked most of the stories, but felt a little too much like something you'd be forced to read in school.
shawnr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite writers. I enjoy the majority of his work, from his poetry to fiction to the films based on his stories. Alexie is my kind of artist and provocateur. That¿s part of why I think I didn¿t enjoy the collection Toughest Indian in the World. In this collection, Alexie¿s stories tend more than ever to the standard-issue ¿lit-fic¿ genre: Relatively successful people, sometimes with relatively unsuccessful relatives, living disaffected lives and/or searching for the thing that will give meaning to their worlds beyond the good job and beautiful wife. Alexie offers up adultery, homosexuality, and some strained ethnic/racial divisions to spice up the literary mag approach, but somehow it doesn¿t all come together. These stories lack the verve of Alexie¿s other work. They lack the rhythm of his poetry and the political undercurrent of his film adaptations. They are just not quite up to expectations. Again, this collection is not bad enough to put me off Alexie for good, but it¿s not one of his best.
bezoar44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this collection of short stories a disappointment. Alexie has a real gift for snappy, stinging writing, and I wanted to like these stories, but a number of the main characters seemed to blur together, and it became hard for me to tell them apart. Two stories stand out: 'the Sin Eaters' is a horrifying account of an American Holocaust in which Indians are collected in concentration camps for some hideous purpose that is never really made clear but involves stealing their souls. Descriptions in the story are written with preternatural clarity that reinforces the disturbing and perhaps allegorical plot. The story I liked most was the last, 'One Good Man', about a son caring for his dying, diabetic father, although like a number of the other stories it resolves by wandering off into a kind of vague mythic space. All the stories are laced with insights into white-Indian race relations and into a sense of alienation that virtually all the Indian characters carry, but the loneliness becomes monotonous after a while.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read the book twice and I loved it! The book portrays Indians as regular every day normal which is who they are. Just like you and the next regular Joe. I will probably read it over and over again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had high hopes for this since I thought 'The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven' was maybe the funniest book I've ever read... but it didn't really live up to my hopes. Some of the stories are good, some others I just gave up on completely. On the plus side, Alexie always does a neat job of writing about Indians in all walks of life - professional, homeless, city, rural, etc.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't know what to expect when I picked up this book, since I usually don't read short story collections...I ended up reading the entire book during the drive home from a camping trip--I couldn't put it down. Alexie's writing is powerful and evocative; as an aspiring writer, I found myself envious of his talent when I read some passages. He definitely knows his craft. The bottom line? Whether you're American Indian or not, these stories will leave you with a new perspective on life, love, and race.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sherman Alexie's dramatic novel containing several powerful stories. An excellent book that I highly recommend to anyone into Native American Literaute, or anybody looking for a good contemporary author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this collection of stories contains some gems and some that are pretty bad. it's tough to judge sherman alexie on this collection. 'Assimilation' is a story that had a lot of potential until it started to become choppy and just ended. 'toughest indian in the world' was a good story until the end, when it took a homosexual twist for no purpose at all. and in the closing words of the story alexie seemed to be trying to say something, just not anything the reader will pick up. 'south by southwest' made some sort of attempt at being profound gay fiction but failed almost as miserably as the plot. 'the sin eaters' is by far the best piece in the collection. it's what kafka would have written if he were indian. this story is a rarity in the collection, it starts off well and doesn't fizzle out. 'saint junior' is a sweet story about love that just isn't interesting. 'dear john wayne''s tough to figure out just what alexie was trying to do here. 'one good man' is another sweet story about the love between a father and son, that, like 'saint junior' just isn't interesting, though the candy hunt passage was good. i can't say not to purchase this collection, because you should read 'the sin eaters' but maybe you should borrow it if you know someone who has a copy.