Literary and Cinematic Reservation in Selected Works of Native American Author Sherman Alexie

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This study explores the importance of the literary “reservation of the mind” in twentieth century native American literature. The book examines the contradictory nature of what the literary reservation space means primarily in the works of Sherman Alexie, but also includes discussions of works by N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Louise Erdrich. Authors often recreate reservation space in positive ways, so their characters are able to survive colonial imposition and administration. The book deals with how Native authors reconcile fragmented identities with the landscape, and how damaging perceptions and policies regarding Native peoples have contributed to the “reservation of the mind.”


“In the pages ahead, Meredith James expertly deconstructs the tales and legends, archetypes and works of art that form the foundation of our national aesthetic. With a bittersweet sense of irony and a razor’s precision, she cuts into the American need to dehumanize and distort our shared history of conquest and slavery, appropriation and exploitation. From Hollywood’s moguls to New York’s glitterati, from the pablum spoken by celebrity icons to the densely worded tomes of academicians, from video games to hip-hop music videos, Dr. James dissects the efforts to exile people in their own land. Instead of quietly accepting the so-called reforms brought about the decolonization, national liberation and human rights struggles of the 20th century, her analysis adroitly highlights how progress can often be twisted into an Orwellian code word for the technological advances used to marginalize and disenfranchise the first people to ever inhabit this continent. Without fear or hesitation, Dr. James makes it plain: All too often, America’s continued advance is but a masquerade for the destruction of those who will always have a just claim to own the bounty that stretches from sea to shining sea.” - (from the Commendatory Preface) Rick Hornung, author of One Nation Under The Gun: Inside The Mohawk Civil War, At the Edge of All Things: In Search of Labrador, Al Capone, and The 14-Bar Blues: Be-Bop Sonnets in a Hip-Hop World and Learning Specialist, Eastern Connecticut University

“Dr. James explores the way Alexie exercises his imagination and anger through a myriad of characters, each of which struggles to resolve their relationship to a reservation landscape that represents past displacement as well as present possibilities for recovering cultural roots. … What James manages so well in this text is the way she unpacks, layer by layer, unique insights into Alexie’s works by tracing how the impact of Indian Policy and representations of Indians in the photographs, dramas, and dimestore novels of the 19th c. continue to shape current images of native peoples in popular culture. The result is a fresh view into the ways Alexie resists the colonizing mindsets of the past as he forces audiences to re-define “Indianess.” – Professor Sharla Hutchison, American Ethnic Literatures and Literary Theory, Ft. Hays State University

“… Authors who grew up on reservations then left … carry what Paiute writer Adrian Louis has called “a reservation of the mind.” Meredith James, a mixed-blood Cherokee, Professor at Eastern Connecticut University, has done an excellent job of describing this set of attitudes. … The strength of James’ analyses is her perceptive treatment of Alexie’s ambivalence about these stereotypes – he both explores and exploits them in his fiction, poetry, and films.” –Alan Velie, Professor of English, University of Oklahoma

Table of Contents

Preface by Rick Hornung
1. “Uncle Adrian! I’m in the reservation of my mind”: Native Writers Creating the Literary Reservation
2. Dances with Worlds: Alexie’s Cinematic Translation of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
3. “I fill my pockets with those reservation blues”: Survival Songs in Reservation Blues
4. “The res has missed you”: The Fragmented Reservation of the Mind in The Business of Fancy dancing

Other Literature - Twentieth Century Books