In Sherman Alexie's This Is What It Means To Say Phoneix, Arizona

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When people think of their childhood, there is often a sense of nostalgia that comes with the memories. There is a bittersweet belief that times then were simpler and the place one looks back to was better. Sherman Alexie avoids this entirely in his works. Having grown up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in the town of Wellpinit, Washington, Alexie seems to have a lot to say about his home. Early in the short story “This Is What It Means To Say Phoneix, Arizona,” Alexie establishes his disenchantment with the reservation, and is blunt in his understanding of the way people live there. “Phoenix” is a harsh work, but even harsher when viewed in conjunction with another of his works about the reservation, the young adult novel that serves …show more content…
Alexie writes his pieces as a man with an understanding of the harshness of the world for someone from the dying Native American culture, because that is indeed his own point of view. As stated, Alexie grew up in Wellpinit, Washington, located on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He has a great deal to say about the reservation and very much of it is negative, falling in line with a childhood surrounded by poverty, alcoholism, and ridicule for being different. Alexie’s portrayals of Native Americans living on the reservations are very real and human; thus, in the eyes of some, they are very harsh, perhaps unnecessarily so. As noted in a 1998 article from the H. W. Wilson Company, a Spokane Native was quoted as disapproving of Alexie’s messages against the reservation, saying, “He has wounded a lot of people. And a lot of people feel he should try to write something positive” (Current Biography). However, Alexie does counter this with his own truth, criticizing the now-common mythology of Native culture and the “authentic” Indian. Aleixe speaks against the “Mother Earth and Shaman Man thing,” that has become a cliché in works of fiction about Native American people, countering it with his knowledge that the people he grew up around didn’t “live [their] lives that way” (Current …show more content…
He has a harsh view of the American government from the get go in “Phoenix,” starting his story with the government’s personal failure toward another Native. Just prior to the story, Victor has lost his job for the government, in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (273). Additionally, a particularly poignant line in the narrative notes with a bitter humor exactly how jaded the Native American population can be toward its routine oppression and poor treatment. After noting that the government “screwed” the Olympic team of a fellow plane passenger, Thomas Builds-the-Fire responds “You all got a lot in common with Indians” (277). This uncomfortable joke is not met with laughter, simply for its blunt and honest truth—if anyone has been “screwed” by the American government, it is the Native American population. Alexie found this out when he was young. While The Absolutely True Diary is only semi-autobiographical, it offers a true situation early in its pages. The system that many Americans believe was put in place to protect the Native American population has indeed not only failed them but failed them miserably. “You were supposed to kill the Indian to save the child,” says the white teacher character, Mr. P (Alexie Absolutely 35), giving voice to one of Alexie’s own thoughts. The reservation was not put in place to help anyone, but to assuage the guilt of the

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