How to Write the Great American Indian Novel

Alexie, Sherman

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: May-26-2009
  • Last revised: May-27-2009


Twenty-one stanzas of couplets spin out stereotypes of Native Americans promulgated by white American culture.  Among those stereotypes that Alexie develops: the tragic Indian; Indian women as sexual objects for white men; Indian men as secretly desirable to white women; Indians as violent, alcoholic, childlike, mystical, and members of a "horse culture."  But in addition, Alexie emphasizes how American whites have co-opted Indian culture: "white people must carry an Indian deep inside themselves" until finally, "all of the white people will be Indians and all of the Indians will be ghosts."


This is a poem of high irony, brilliant in the way it lays out all of the stereotypes depicted in US films, television stories, and elsewhere-some blatant, some subtle and complicated.  The poem is a painful reminder of how the United States has at one and the same time decimated native peoples and their culture while exploiting those people and that culture for its own gain.  It is a commentary on stereotyping, loss of identity, and loss of a people.

Sherman Alexie is a poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, and film writer. He is a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian and grew up on an Indian reservation in Washington state.  His work focuses on  relationships between Native Americans and white Americans and on Native American life within a white power structure.  Alexie's writing is consistently humorous and ironic.

Primary Source

The Summer of Black Widows, pp. 94-95


Hanging Loose Press

Place Published

Brooklyn, New York