One of my favorite authors is Sherman Alexie. He’s a master of the short story form, his writing typically features Native American characters (Alexie is of Spokane and Coeur D’alene heritage), and he’s generally hilarious. I’m not a huge fan of his novels–they can feel a little unfocused–but his short story collections are unparalleled. My favorite is Ten Little Indians, and one of my favorite stories from it is actually available online: What You Pawn I Will Redeem. It’s about a homeless Indian man who’s looking to earn a thousand dollars in a day so he can buy back his grandmother’s stolen powwow-dance regalia from a pawn shop, and it’s a great example of what a warm, witty, humane writer Alexie is. Here’s our hero, Jackson Jackson, after a cop has just found him lying drunk and asleep on some railroad tracks.
He helped me up and led me over to his squad car. He put me in the back. “You throw up in there and you’re cleaning it up,” he said.
He walked around the car and sat in the driver’s seat. “I’m taking you over to detox,” he said.
“No, man, that place is awful,” I said. “It’s full of drunk Indians.”
We laughed. He drove away from the docks.
“I don’t know how you guys do it,” he said.
“What guys?” I asked.
“You Indians. How the hell do you laugh so much? I just picked your ass off the railroad tracks, and you’re making jokes. Why the hell do you do that?”
“The two funniest tribes I’ve ever been around are Indians and Jews, so I guess that says something about the inherent humor of genocide.”