Published: 2009 by Grove Press
Genres: Young Adult
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For anyone curious about the first set of stories/poems in the collection, see “War Dances” by Sherman Alexie, Part 1.
Without further ado…
This poem points out that around the same time that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation proclamation, he also signed the death warrants of Native Americans, resulting in the largest public execution in US history. We tend to idolize presidents, particularly ones as iconic as Lincoln, without realizing that they were guilty of their fair share of human rights abuses.
Invisible Dog on a Leash
This is a story of a child’s disillusionment as he grows up, and about the loss of the sense of magic in the world.
The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless
This was one of the longer short stories in the collection. It deals with a man who attempts to seduce a woman he meets in an airport. The man’s mental deterioration parallels the deterioration that had happened within his own family life.
In a poetical form, the narrator muses about people who ask to switch seats with him.
Big Bang Theory
…which of course has absolutely nothing to do with the new TV series that I have yet to watch, but have been told that I’ll love. The story-poem recalls memories of childhood awkwardness and fears.
Ode for Pay Phones
A teenage narrator has a crush on a girl who sleeps around. He has a habit of calling her house and talking with her at night, and is always thankful on the nights she is present to pick up the phone. It’s a wee bit stalkerish, in my own humble opinion, but at the same time is meant to be endearing.
This was one of my favorites in the collection. I really liked the anecdote at the beginning of the story, where the narrator describes the intimacy of holding hands with a girl at a movie. The narrator then goes on to become a writer, but is paralyzed by writer’s block.
Ode to Mix Tapes
Ah, the early 90s…
Roman Catholic Haiku
Not an actual haiku, but a poem that brings to mind memories of Catholic school. I like the way he pointed out the way that the nuns were the educated scholarly type who didn’t take offense to students yelling “Get thee to a nunnery!” at each other. Most of the nuns that I’ve known in my life have been amazingly cool and fun people.
Examines the more human side of Chief Joseph.
This one is sad. A young intern is tasked with writing obituaries, learning life lessons along the way. Even though it’s sad, it also calls to mind that moment at any internship or job where a newbie thinks “Oh God, what did I get myself into?!”
Concluding the collection is a poem about a person’s last wish upon dying. It made me wish that the book ended on a happier note, but at the same time, it was fitting.
Overall, I enjoyed “War Dances.” When I bought it, I didn’t know anything about it other than the fact that it was Sherman Alexie’s newest. I like the variety in a collection of short stories and poems.. I’d recommend this to anyone interested in contemporary Native American literature.