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Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie

            Sherman Alexie is a prominent Native American writer, filmmaker and poet. He was born on the Spokane Indian Reservation and utilizes his experiences as a Native American on and off the reservation throughout his work to examine the cause and (often negative) effect of stereotypical perceptions of Native Americans, and in doing so, highlights the issues that Native Americans are still currently facing. Alexie's first novel, Reservation Blues, was published in 1995 and is no exception to this. It tells the story of a group of young Native Americans, mostly from the Spokane Indian Reservation, as they come together to form a band and the subsequent trials and tribulation they encounter. Within this novel Alexie manages to merge together the mythical and romanticized view of Native Americans (although Alexie "has been at pains to deflate just such romantic myths, whether steward of the earth, stoical warrior, shaman or savage") with a more realistic, and perhaps somewhat depressing, account of Native Americans regarding matters such as racism, religion, the commodification of Native American culture and life on the reservations including alcoholism and health services. .
             Given the title of this novel and the main storyline revolving around a band, it is of no surprise that Alexie uses music significantly throughout his work. Although the title can refer to the Reservation Blues being the general sad and depressing atmosphere on the Reservation it can also refer to the type of music, the Blues, as being appropriated by Native Americans. Alexie opens each chapter with Blues lyrics, each song lamenting some wretched aspect of Native American life and relating to foregoing chapter. Blues music originated from African Americans, used as a way of oral history chronicling their horrendous treatment at the hands of white men as they endured slavery and their subsequent mistreatment after the abolishment of slavery with poor economic and social status and opportunities.

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