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The Toughest Indian in the World

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  5,353 Ratings  ·  320 Reviews
A beloved American writer whose books are championed by critics and readers alike, Sherman Alexie has been hailed by Time as "one of the better new novelists, Indian or otherwise."

In these stories, we meet the kind of American Indians we rarely see in literature -- the kind who pay their bills, hold down jobs, fall in and out of love.

A Spokane Indian journalist transplan
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 1st 2001 by Grove Press (first published April 9th 2000)
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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman AlexieBeyond Oria Falls by Sheryl SealLove Medicine by Louise ErdrichCeremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
Native American Fiction
24th out of 590 books — 556 voters
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman AlexieGreen Grass, Running Water by Thomas KingLove Medicine by Louise ErdrichThree Day Road by Joseph Boyden
Best Native American/First Nations Fiction
33rd out of 383 books — 280 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jan 30, 2016 Jamie rated it it was amazing

I've been saving this one for a while, almost in an "IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS" kind of way. And now that I'm somewhat homebound with a ruptured achilles I finally indulged in this perfect collection of literary comfort food.

Absolutely loved it.

And once again validated my belief that Sherman Alexie is the best writer of my generation.

Dec 09, 2007 Trish rated it it was amazing
Sherman Alexie really kicks ass, doesn't he?

I always approached the tenth most attractive white woman at any gathering. I didn't have enough looks, charm, intelligence, or money to approach anybody more attractive than that, and I didn't have enough character to approach the less attractive.

My feelings are my feelings, said Salmon Boy, they belong to me, and you don't have to worry about them at all.

"What did you do?"
"I broke my heart."
"I didn't realize that was illegal."
"Well," he said. "
May 08, 2013 Andrea rated it it was amazing
One or two I didn't especially like, though each and every one of them is a pretty great short story. But I loved the ones I loved, and am rather in awe that one person wrote all of them, and the way they play with sexuality and identity and belonging from many angles. The way that people move between worlds and what that means to them, what it does to them. And of course I love the points of view, and the complexity and the absence of charicature and all the things I really hate in a lot of wri ...more
Mrs. Reed
Aug 19, 2012 Mrs. Reed rated it really liked it
This collection of short stories spans many different genres--realistic fiction, magic realism, sci-fi--all exploring the identity of the American Indian. Some were better than others, but it was one of the most cohesive short story collections I have ever encountered. Alexie uses these perfect little gems to communicate the complicated feelings he has about race and belonging.

I didn't know when I first picked it up that it was a short story collection, and I was a little sad when I figured it o
Jul 28, 2010 Patricia rated it liked it
I've been meaning to read one of Alexie's books for a while, especially since I taught the short story "Dear John Wayne" in the class I TA-ed last fall. Unfortunately, I found the short story collection The Toughest Indian in the World to be disappointingly uneven. Part of this may be the result of Alexie's unifying theme here--he says in the introduction to this edition that he set out to write "love stories... of white-collar Indians," which in practice seems to mean relying on heavy-handed us ...more
Deb Rudnick
Feb 26, 2016 Deb Rudnick rated it it was amazing
I can't believe it's taken me this long to know this Alexie book exists. It's by far one of my favorites. I am amazed by the intensity, brilliance, and emotion of Alexie's writing in these short stories. I think they rank right up there with some of the best I've read, including Etgar Keret, Dubus, and Hemingway. His writing is like opening a door and getting knocked sideways by a gale of wind that has rolled all the way from the Spokane reservation, bringing with it the secrets, ghosts, tall ta ...more
Feb 18, 2016 Bryce rated it really liked it
My prior experience with Sherman Alexie was An Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, which was great and absolutely wrecked me. I was saving this book for a time I needed some feelings.

And there are feelings a-plenty to be found in these short stories, especially the last one "One Good Man." A son takes care of his father during his dying days, asking "What's an Indian?" but also silently asking "Who am I?"

But these stories lean more to thoughtfulness than pure sentimentality. Alexie exp
Sep 05, 2010 Melissa rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
One notable line: A character says he is Indian, and someone responds, "Dot-on-the-head Indian or arrow-in-the-heart Indian?" I appreciate the window this book gave me into Indian culture as Alexie knows it. However, it seemed that almost every story had some mention of sex or sexual disfunction, and after awhile I started wondering if it was necessary. At one point a character says, "I just want to tell the whole story," and I do think this is part of Alexie's writing, to write everything in th ...more
Oct 31, 2015 Dan rated it really liked it
I have to say that I have yet to find a book by Alexie that I didn't like. I will admit that the first 3 stories in this short story collection didn't make much sense but had some sense of truths in them. But really the last half of this book contained some thought provoking and touching stories about "what is an Indian?" If you are looking for a diverse read that has meaning then read this.
Jul 18, 2015 David rated it it was amazing
Outstanding, just like all of Alexie's other work I have (and will continue) to read. I won't add much more as I've written volumes about Alexie's wonderful exposition of what it 'means' to be 'Indian' and the concept of race and how it divides. A fantastic collection of short stories.
Ronald Wise
Jul 30, 2011 Ronald Wise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sherman Alexie has been attracting attention for his poetry and fiction since the early 1990s, when he was in his late twenties. This collection of short stories took its title from one of the stories therein, which was originally published by The New Yorker. The most obvious thread in common to all these stories is the presence of Native American characters living in a white-dominant society. The central characters, however, vary in the degree of assimulation, and the objects of their efforts a ...more
Maggie Roessler
"Sexually speaking, Indian women and men are simultaneously promiscuous and modest. That's a contradiction, but it also happens to be the truth."

That true contradiction is a tidy way to sum up the style of this collection. Promiscuous and modest, tough and vulnerable, stoic and maudlin, elegant and clumsy, smart and naive. And by contradiction I'm talking extremes, no pansying moderation but full-on over-the-top ballsy commitment to both poles.

Maybe it's that contradiction which ties the whole
Emily White
Feb 16, 2014 Emily White rated it liked it
I read Sherman Alexie’s book of short stories The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight In Heaven some years ago and was expecting The Toughest Indian In the World to be comparable. The Lone Ranger had a simplicity about it that I found intriguing, and I felt like it captured some of the struggles of the modern American Indian. I felt the hopelessness and anger of the characters, and saw the stereotypes that they lived with day in and day out. Toughest Indian operated along much of the same lines, as ...more
Jul 24, 2013 Daryl rated it liked it
I've read, and enjoyed, most of Alexie's fiction. This collection, however, is probably my least favorite of his books. I was kind of surprised by the amount of graphic sex in the first four stories here. It didn't really fit the Alexie style. When I got to the fifth story, the middle of the book, "The Sin Eaters," I was shocked. Not by sex, this time, but because this story is science fiction. Perhaps an allegory, a metaphor, but it very much left the realm of realism far behind. The last half ...more
Nov 04, 2007 Katie rated it it was amazing
It isn’t easy to describe one of Sherman Alexie’s provocative collections of short stories. Reviews often seem limited to a string of adjectives—touching, funny, angry, passionate, bittersweet, tender, mysterious, magical, vivid and haunting. Real. Suffice to say that he is incredibly skilled at directing human emotions into words, which is no small feat considering most of us can’t even put our own thoughts into words, let alone good words. Really good words, as the case may be. Alexie is the m ...more
Nov 30, 2009 Cayr rated it it was amazing
Native Americans are the greatest story tellers. Sherman Alexie is the best of the best. This is the best book of short stories that I have ever read.

One of the things I liked the most about it was that while each story carries some of the same themes of how being a Native American is ironically kind of like being a stranger in a strange land, the characters in each story are all unique and three dimensional. I liked that I was able to hear the voice of a reservation Indian telling these storie
Jun 05, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it
I love reading Sherman Alexie when I'm feeling homesick; he often writes about the place where he grew up, which just happens to be near where I grew up.

This collection of short stories is interesting. It has Alexie's trademark writing style and he touched on similar themes that run throughout most of his writing, but he also explored new topics such as sexuality and gender. I enjoyed that we traveled to different time periods in these stories. My two favorites were the last two. "Dear John Way
Jul 19, 2010 Sherri rated it it was amazing
More Sherman short stories, I think this is my favorite form of his work. I like how he creates characters that sometimes overlap into his other stories, they are like old friends, even like family. There was one particular story in this book that affected me because I felt my life was in these pages and it scared me a little. Sherman said in a speech in March that people often tell him how his books have affected them and I have to say some details in this story seemed eerily personal and I wan ...more
Leigh Matthews
Mar 17, 2016 Leigh Matthews rated it really liked it
The first couple of (shorter) stories in this collection are absolutely amazing. I'll be revisiting these to help improve my grasp of short-story writing!

Alexie manages to build characters with an inner calm that verges on an intense fury, which sounds oxymoronic, but isn't.

Alexie's oeuvre is definitely moving up my to-read list.
Apr 15, 2009 Emily rated it it was amazing
An excellent, cohesive collection of short stories. Alexie has mastered developing rich, complex characters in such short narratives.

At the end of each short story, I longed to know more about the lives of the protagonists, other than the few glimpses I had been allowed. Very few authors could get an audience so emotionally invested over the span of several pages.
Jan 17, 2009 Lance rated it it was ok
I found this collection of short stories about various Native American related themes overall interesting, if only in the idea of juxtaposing related themes on a central topic. Some were definitely better than others. Alexie seems to have a fetish for disenfranchisement by white people and for sexuality, and he seems to have explored every possible outlet of sexuality. Some of the language is terse, and some of the images he draws are downright crude. As a work of entertainment, this book I do n ...more
May 10, 2010 Lisa rated it it was amazing
It's hard to say anything about these stories, because they're so good. They're delightful in substance, style, and soul. Reading them made me feel that Alexie loves writing and loves intensely what he's writing about . . . I think those are the highest qualifications for a writer. My favorite line came in the last story, where the narrator is standing by the side of the road with his dying father.

"I wanted to ask my father about his regrets. I wanted to ask him what was the worst thing he'd eve
Jihan Bok
Feb 26, 2016 Jihan Bok rated it it was amazing
Sherman Alexie writes like a contemporary Native American on steroids. His genius lies in the ability to wrangle words like horses and produce in even the most apathetic of readers random, unexpected agony in the purest of forms. "The Toughest Indian in the World" encompasses over-sexualized, yes, renditions of modern Native Americans in first world America, Native Americans who all have detracted from their roots in certain ways, whether sexually, economically, or racially and are now strugglin ...more
Mar 13, 2013 Melissa rated it really liked it
I wish I was Indian just so I could properly worship at Sherman Alexie's altar. His story collections are superb--different enough but with enough recurring moments to create a cohesive whole. His stories make you feel like you're reading a universal truth about humanity even though he's clearly telling the Indian story and we blue-eyed devils can only catch a mere sliver of a glimpse behind the curtain. Not only are the stories pregnant with emotion (and the emotions in this collection are as d ...more
Sep 08, 2010 Melanie rated it really liked it
A tough read- but awesome. The problem with Sherman Alexie is that he is writing the stories the average native lives. I love it when a white person comes up to me whose read Alexie and says "You're and Indian, you must love Alexie!" Well, not exactly. I would say Alexie is more the exception rather than the rule. Not to say that hes not important. At least someone is telling our stories. But some of our stories are filled with so much pain that even we can't make sense of them, let alone the av ...more
Sep 07, 2009 Phil rated it liked it
Nine short stories by Sherman Alexie. My copy says he was "selected by The New Yorker as one of the best American fiction writers under 40". He is an Indian and he writes about modern Indians living in on and off the "res" in the American North West.

Each story is quite different - from startling to moving. (And in my view, the editor chose to put the startling ones first..)

I quite enjoy reading about people and ideas I have not encountered, and while I only give it 3 stars, it was a quick read
Mar 25, 2016 Aubrey rated it really liked it
A roller-coaster arrangement of short stories running the full spectrum of Alexie's creative mind; from a story of a lesbian couple being interrogated by future parents-in-law to a disturbing tale of white soldiers invading a reservation and stealing all the children and re-locating them into a cave in the desert under uncertain conditions, to a light-hearted tale of a non-violent killing spree undertaken by a lonely man looking for love. Each new story is a surprise and I thoroughly enjoyed mos ...more
I know it's been said by others many times, but let me repeat it. Alexie is, at heart, a poet. It's because of this that even the short stories in this set that I didn't care for on other levels could still capture my interest. Things can be going along, a bit mundanely even, but then a turn of phrase would just knock my socks off.

That said, there were stories here that I loved from top to bottom. My favorite was "Saint Junior," but I am a sucker for a believable love story. That's because they'
Aug 29, 2010 David rated it really liked it
As always, Alexie's stories are emotionally dramatic, swirling around intruiging, unique characters. these stories in particular are noteable for the way that Alexie manages to swoop down at just the right moment to show the most human part of his characters. It makes me immediately connect to the character, making me feel what they do as they try to puzzle out how to live their lives. Definitely some wild ones in this collection.
Apr 11, 2014 Catherine rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I normally love Alexie. I like that he makes me think, but these stories are way to sexual for my liking. I only read the first one and 3/4 of the second one, and I am putting this book down. I don't want that much sexual information about anyone. I get that Alexie uses the sexual relationship to mean something entirely different, but to be honest, I don't want to slog through sex to get to his meanings.

I'll pass on this one.
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Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., was born in October 1966. A Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA, about 50 miles northwest of Spokane, WA. Alexie has published 18 books to date.
Alexie is an award-winning and prolific author and occasional comedian. Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a modern Native American. Sherman's best known works in
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“He loved her, of course, but better than that, he chose her, day after day. Choice: that was the thing.” 658 likes
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