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Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie
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Reservation Blues (original 1995; edition 2005)

by Sherman Alexie

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1,398195,421 (3.93)42
Member:hopey86
Title:Reservation Blues
Authors:Sherman Alexie
Info:Grove Press (2005), Paperback, 320 pages
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Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (1995)

  1. 30
    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: Contemporary fiction about searching for identity
  2. 30
    The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (PghDragonMan)
    PghDragonMan: Both deal with ethnic conflict and searching for identity.
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» See also 42 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
My book club really had a good discussion on this book. I had a hard time reading it--I've had too much of authors who make bad jokes. I get it, that making a joke of your pain is often the only way you can deal with it, but it just didn't make for a great book. Big Mom was initially presented as a wise woman, but her role got watered down to just focusing on music instruction. OK, there wasn't room in the story for her to really help people deal with their larger problems. ( )
  juniperSun | Mar 31, 2014 |
A group of Spokane Indians form a rock and blues band with the help -- if "help" is quite the right word -- of Robert Johnson's supernaturally gifted guitar. Although that description doesn't give any true sense of what this novel is about. What it's really about is the blues, both the musical and the existential kinds, about what it means be an American Indian in the modern world, and what life on a reservation can do to people. I suppose you'd call it magic realism, although what it emphatically isn't is the kind of romanticized New Age-y mysticism that white people like to associate with Native Americans. (Alexie has some rather uncomplimentary things to say about that stuff.)

The story is a little unfocused, and I don't think this is nearly as sharp and powerful as his The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. But I was deeply impressed by that book, so don't take that statement as any kind of insult. Alexie's just a damned good writer, and, fantasy elements or not, there's always a strong feeling of truth to his work. ( )
3 vote bragan | Mar 7, 2014 |
It takes only a page or two of Reservation Blues to realize that Sherman Alexie is a gifted writer. His characters live and breathe, move in unexpected ways through the story, and continually fascinate. The Spokane Indian Reservation feels, too, like a real place: He captures the desolation, the grinding poverty, the hopelessness, and the bonds that tie the residents to the place and to each other. Alexie spins the plot out of small things, but conveys (without ever coming out and saying so) that, for the characters, these things are immense, and the stakes enormous.

It also takes only a few pages that Alexie is interested in layering the fantastic and the magical into his sharply observed story of the real. The arrival of Robert Johnson, the legendary bluesman – still running, after all these years, from “The Gentleman” to whom he once bartered his soul at a southern crossroads – pretty much takes care of that. Big Mom, the Indian woman to whom Johnson turns for help, likewise has only one foot in our world. So, for that matter, does Alexie’s hero: Thomas Builds-the-Fire, whose music comes from a someplace magical, and whose dreams link him (if not always in ways he understands) to the dark and troubled history of Indians in America.

It takes more than a few pages (or a few chapters) to realize that the magical-mystical elements of Alexie’s story never quite gel with the here-and-now elements (gritty social realism, leavened with humor) into a satisfying whole. It takes the better part of the book, and when it ends you’re left with a slightly baggy-feeling plot full of unresolved threads. By then, though, it doesn’t matter. By then, Alexie has you so wrapped up in the characters and their story that you don’t mind in the slightest. ( )
1 vote ABVR | Oct 25, 2013 |
According to Wikipedia, this was Sherman Alexie's first novel although he had published both poetry and short stories prior to Reservation Blues. After reading a little about the author it is apparent that he used some of his own experiences to create this picture of reservation life in the 90's. One of the questions explored here is "What does it mean to be Indian today, especially reservation Indian?".

I think that this book would have caught me sooner if I hadn't been going through a bit of a reading slump when I started it. I did know pretty early on that I would finish it and half-way through I was definitely hooked. Alexie somehow manages his mix of comedy and tragedy very well and I particularly loved the way he referenced so much pop culture. In fact the story begins with the sudden appearance of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson at a crossroads on the Spokane Indian Reservation along with his guitar.

Recommended.
  hailelib | Feb 22, 2013 |
The bluesman Robert Johnson arrives at a crossroads on the Spokane Indian reservation, out of space and time, and taps into the local magic, inspiring the formation of an all-Indian rock ‘n roll band. Such is the premise for a story that probes the longings and the laments, the gladnesses and the grave indignities of Native American life at the end of the 20th c.

Long Trail IPA
Dogfish Head Raison D’Être
  MusicalGlass | Jan 9, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sherman Alexieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alexie, ShermanLyrics, Coyote Springs songssecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boyd, JimLyrics, Coyote Springs songssecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Johnson, RobertWords and musicsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McClain, RachelCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Minor, WendellCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
God's old lady, she sure is a big chick.
-- Charles Mingus
I went to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad
fell down on my knees
-- Robert Johnson
Dedication
for Diane

for Etta Adams
First words
In the one hundred and eleven years since the creation of the Spokane Indian Reservation in 1881, not one person, Indian or otherwise, had ever arrived there by accident.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802141900, Paperback)

Sherman Alexie has been hailed as “one of the best writers we have” (The Nation). Reservation Blues is his “irresistibly stunning debut novel” (San Francisco Chronicle). One day legendary bluesman Robert Johnson appears on the Spokane Indian reservation, in flight from the devil and presumed long dead. When he passes his enchanted instrument to Thomas-Builds-the-Fire—storyteller, misfit, and musician—a magical odyssey begins that will take them from reservation bars to small-town taverns, from the cement trails of Seattle to the concrete canyons of Manhattan. This is a fresh, luxuriantly comic tale of power, tragedy, and redemption among contemporary Native Americans.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:56 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Legendary bluesman, Robert Johnson, arrives at a Spokane Indian reservation and passes his guitar to a young boy leading them around the country sounding chords of celebration and survival.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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