I was having a hard time connecting to Sherman Alexie's The Toughest Indian In the World for this reason up until about halfway, at which point I hit all the surreal and AMAZING stories that Alexie was apparently saving up for the end. (Okay, I also liked South by Southwest, which was apparently in the first half, but my brain keeps wanting to switch it out with one of the stories I didn't like as well in the second half.)
Assimilation: A Spokane woman wants to cheat on her white husband. Marriage-falling-apart with witty dialogue, solved by an Epiphany.
The Toughest Indian in the World: Title story! An Indian journalist picks up a hitchhiking Indian boxer and they have an Encounter followed by (presumably) an Epiphany.
South by Southwest: A man decides to become a dashing robber and walks into a fast-food restaurant and asks for a dollar from everyone and a sidekick who will love him. An Indian man on the floor raises his hand and says that he's not a homosexual, but he does believe in love. They go on an extremely surreal journey; love may or may not happen. I liked this one.
Class: A upper-middle-class Spokane man marries a white woman. Their marriage falls apart. He goes to a bar to try to connect with his Roots and gets confronted with his privilege. Then he has an Epiphany.
The Sin Eaters: Creepy and haunting magical-realist apocalyptic vision of all Indians being rounded up and used for mysterious and apocalyptic purposes. Incredible story; not sure how I feel about the use of Holocaust imagery, but I guess, considering, it is pretty fair play.
Indian Country: This is the one I kept wanting to replace with "South By Southwest" in my head. An Indian writer arrives in Montana to meet his long-distance lover and finds out that she's run off with another man, so he hangs out with the lesbian friend from college he is still in love with and her Spokane fiancee and the fiancee's prejudiced parents and makes everything infinitely worse. I was okay with this story until the final scene, when everyone was HIDEOUSLY AWFUL and I hated them all.
Saint Junior: This was my favorite story, hands-down. It's about life on and off the reservation and basketball and writing and love and, for once, an actual happy marriage. I can count on the fingers of one hand the short stories I have read that are about happy marriages. This story is proof it can be done and done well and in a way that made me happy for hours after I read it, because sometimes I am a sap.
Dear John Wayne: A parodically awful cultural anthropologist who considers himself an expert on Native Americans interviews the oldest Indian woman alive, who a.) deflates him b.) reminisces about her affair with John Wayne and c.) deflates him some more. This one made me laugh.
One Good Man: An English teacher moves to the reservation to take care of his dying father; then they decide to go on a journey for no reason other than because they can. This may be an epiphany story, but you can see the love throughout it and that kind of makes all the difference. Also it is basically just amazing.
In unrelated news, this meme intrigues me! Although I do not expect many responses, since most of the time I am tragically predictable like a Dan Brown novel:
What's surprised you the most about me (if anything) since beginning to read my LJ (or when you met me IRL, for those who have)? Has anything about me been completely unexpected or have I always fit the picture of me you had in your head?