Old Shirts and New Skinsby Sherman Alexie, Elizabeth Woody
Poetry. Native American Studies. Amongst the poems and prose of OLD SHIRTS & NEW SKINS appear illustrations by Elizabeth Woody, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon. In the best tradition of confronting American reality and exacting vision and meaning from it, Sherman Alexie chooses to use poetic power. His vision is an amazing… See more details below
Poetry. Native American Studies. Amongst the poems and prose of OLD SHIRTS & NEW SKINS appear illustrations by Elizabeth Woody, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon. In the best tradition of confronting American reality and exacting vision and meaning from it, Sherman Alexie chooses to use poetic power. His vision is an amazing celebration of endurance, intimacy, love, and creative insight; finally, it is a victory that can be known only by a people who refuse to submit to the thieves, liars, and killers that have made them suffer tremendous loss and pain. "Like the woman who pours her life into a stew of survival, Sherman Alexie has created a meal, not for a reader to consume but for a reader to be changed by. Survival is being documented, changes measured"—Linda Hogan.
It's a rich, panoramic portrayal of contemporary Seattle that uses the form of the mystery to tell some uncomfortable home truths about Indian-white relations, and indeed racism in all its forms. Alexie begins by focusing on the ironically named John Smith, who was either given up for adoption by, or stolen away from, his teenaged Indian mother. He is raised by loving and conscientious white "parents" and finds himself in traumatized adulthood "an Indian without a tribe," a misfit who belongs to no culture, wandering the streets among the city's homeless, seeking an outlet for the unfocused rage he knows he can no longer suppress. Is John Smith the "Indian killer" who stalks and murders white men, scalping them for good measure, terrorizing the city and provoking a rash of racially motivated violence? Alexie teases us with that possibility right up to the last page, meanwhile populating his exciting story with a host of keenly observed and rigorously analyzed characters. The most memorable include Marie Polatkin, a fiery Native American college student and activist with no use for sentimental white liberals; Jack Wilson, an ex-cop turned popular novelist, whose exploration (and exploitation) of a small trace of "Indian blood" in his ancestry infuriates his full-blooded "brothers"; and John Smith's adoptive parents, Olivia and Daniel, whose decency and good will are portrayed with fairness and respect. Alexie succeeds brilliantly at suggesting the time- bombticking character of John Smith's ravaged psyche, and the novel rips along at a breathless pace.
Both a splendidly constructed and wonderfully readable thrillerand a haunting, challenging articulation of the plight and the pride of contemporary Native Americans.
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