‘Owhwhe: I’m Reading “Blasphemy”

By JACQUELINE LETALIEN

For quite a while I have intended to read Sherman Alexie’s writing.  He wrote the screenplay for the movie Smoke Signals.  I have watched the movie many times.  The story incites laughter, tears and recognition.  He is a prolific writer of novels, short stories and poetry.  The schools in the Hoopa Valley include his writings as part of reading curricula.

At last after setting intention, I have delved into his poetic prose.  I chose to read the 2012 book Blasphemy.  It is a collection of Alexie’s short stories.  Usually, I read novel length books that tell one story.  However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Alexie’s full writing in short form.  In this prose, his poet shows up; he can write a whole story that speaks volumes in just a few pages.

Each concise story is full of the particularity of American Indian humor from which full bellied laughter bellows.  I looked forward to meeting the new characters of each story.  He also, with his poetic sensibility, has a potent way of expressing the pathos of past shattering changes and the struggles of current challenging realities for the people of indigenous tribes throughout this continent.

We have a shared history.  We know these people, lives, stories.  We just do not know quite how things will turn out for us although there is a whispered wish:  “…I wasn’t dancing for war.  I was dancing for my soul and for the soul of my tribe.  I was dancing for what we Indians used to be and who we might become again.”

Genocide, assimilation, cultural destruction have not been complete.  A DVD title expresses the sentiment We Still Live Here.  In gathering the shards of our fragmented tribal cultures we can hope, strive to emerge from the shattering effects of the European incursion to become whole.

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Date
December 4th, 2013

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