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War Dances

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  4,353 ratings  ·  655 reviews
Fresh off his National Book Award win, Alexie delivers a heartbreaking, hilarious collection of stories that explores the precarious balance between self-preservation and external responsibility in art, family, and the world at large. With unparalleled insight into the minds of artists, laborers, fathers, husbands, and sons, Alexie populates his stories with ordinary men o ...more
Hardcover, 209 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by Grove Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieBeyond Bridalveil Fall by Sheryl SealLove Medicine by Louise ErdrichThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman AlexieGreen Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
Best Native American/First Nations Fiction
9th out of 347 books — 217 voters
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
81st out of 513 books — 482 voters

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Community Reviews

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I haven't read any Sherman Alexie since The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian back in college, and I had forgotten how much I missed him. Another reviewer, when writing about this book, called Alexie's work "honest", and I think that's really the best description of this little collection of short stories and poems (there's even a chapter where Alexie gives us a poem he wrote about his father and then deconstructs all the lies in it). Not all the stories are fantastic, but most are lov ...more
Oct 28, 2009 Bean rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Bean by: Sherman Alexie
Loved it.

So, on Sunday I went to see Sherman Alexie read from his new book, War Dances, at Wordstock09, and it was nothing short of great. If you’re unfamiliar with him I’d recommend any of his books, but my favorite so far is still his young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a mostly hilarious coming of age story of growing up on a reservation, but going to an all white private school.

One of the great parts of his reading that that he told stories to segue into
William Thomas
I don't suffer from white guilt. So I'm not one to blow smoke up an author's ass for the simple fact that they are black or Asian or American Indian. I won't go easy on a writer for the simple fact of their ethnicity. But I will praise them when they deserve it and damn it all if Sherman Alexie doesn't deserve all of my praise.

I know that sounds strange with the three star rating. The book wasn't perfect by any means. What it was was honest. Completely unabashed honesty. Not stories from a writ
Mari Butler
I first saw Sherman Alexie as a featured guest author on an episode of The Colbert Report. At the time he told Stephen Colbert that he didn’t want his books on the Kindle. He felt that it compromised the integrity of the book because it wasn’t written in ink on paper and could be altered. I thought it was interesting that he was Native American and he was resisting technology to preserve traditional publications. I got both the hardcover copy and the audio book of “War Dances” from the library s ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Suffered by comparison to Erdrich's The Plague of Doves, but I needed a palate cleanser and this was nearby. The short stories were ... okay. The poems were less than okay and didn't add anything. Generally, I like poems that play with language and are more lyrical - this kind of spare, naive stuff only works when it's clearly integrated into the rest of the collection - these didn't seem to be so.

I found the whole thing a mish-mash, lacking any clear focus or overall point of view. The quality
This is the best book I've read in a long time. And I got to listen to Alexie read it himself. These are (some of) the themes that are important to Alexie, infused in his life and this collection of poems and short stories: truth, music, identity, rage, sex, storytelling itself, nationalism/imperialism/capitalism, grief, loss. Maybe I love Alexie and everything he touches because all of these things are fascinating to me too.

Not all, but many of my strongest friendships were cultivated after I
Oct 27, 2009 Nicole rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who can easily transition from laughter to tears
Oh Sherman, you somehow manage to make me feel like a friend, an enemy, a racist, and a coconsipirator all at the same time. You evoke emotions and then distance me from them. Oh the experience of reading a Sherman Alexie book! OH the experience of hearing him speak live.

Reading the purportedly non-autobiographical (lies!) short stories and poetry of War Dances, I felt like Sherman was standing naked in front of me saying, "Look! This is me! See this blemish? Look closer!" It was not always the
Christina Rau
Having fallen in love with Sherman Alexie's writing style and themes, I picked up War Dances, a collection of his short stories. That's what its label says, but that's not really what it is. This collection has stories, but it also has poetry and even fragments that are in the form of Q&A that tell a story through the juxtaposition of question content and incongruent answers. Alexie's emotional description of alcohol abuse on reservations and the often overlooked difference between white and ...more
Driving through Doghill, Arkansaw the other day, I just happened to dodge one of the numerous canine fucks that inhabit the roadside there when the Sherman Alexie poem that opens this book popped into my head deranged as it was with fresh groud, dark roast, bartered in the sex trade, shade grown by anthill coffee:

The Limited

I saw a man swerve his car
And try to hit a stray dog
But the quick mutt dodged
Between two parked cars

And made his escape...

Why do poets think
They can change the world?
The only
Ever find you really like a book but don’t have much to say about it? So it is with Sherman Alexie’s War Dances. It is, in typical Alexie fashion, a gracefully written collection of short stories and poems that manages to be insightful not just about what it means to be Native American in the 21st Century, but how personal identity is a profoundly unreliable thing that nevertheless greatly influences the way we get by in the world. Each piece is – if I can use such a word without fear of ridicul ...more
Jessie Carty
I've had Sherman Alexie on my "to read" list (in a variety of genres) for a long time, but after reading the title piece in The Best American Non-Required Reading Anthology I knew I had to finally take the plunge.

I wasn't disappointed.

Alexie writes charcters you will love to hate and/or at least you'll find yourself thankful that they are not you (or at least I hope you aren't the adultering frequent flyer as portrayed in one short piece).

I found myself wondering whether the prose and poems wer
Oct 12, 2009 Brad rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Alexie fans.
Alexie was one of the polestars of my Creative Writing days- 'The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight In Heaven' is one of my favorite collections. At his best- Alexie is humorous, brokenhearted, poignant- he captures the complexities of identity- and doesn't look away from alchoholism, addiction and despair.

This book seems to illustrate the dangers of success, for writers. Largely gone are the dusty, reservation locations. Instead, we find protagonists in upscale Seattle neighborhoods- men who boas
Danny Shelton
War Dances is a book best read in one sitting for no other reason than the likelihood that a reader wouldn’t want (or need) to stop reading it in the first place.
Sherman Alexie is a Spokane Indian, and Grove Press published the book in 2009.
The book follows a general pattern and is divided up into sections, making the book very fluid and easy to read, with a length of just over 200 pages. Roughly, the sections begin with a poem, are followed by a short story, then a sort of interview with the
Tyler Hill
Sherman Alexie is one of those authors that, for a while now, I've felt like I should check out. He's a fellow Seattleite, and when I've heard him speak on NPR and other places, I've generally found him pretty entertaining to listen to. That said, I also tend to be wary of authors who's subject matter could be described as one-note... and with most of his novels titles featuring the word "Indian" in them, I was concerned it might be the case with his writing.

With that in mind, this book (or "mi
This is my first experience reading Alexie, even though I've known about and admired him for years. He moved to Seattle and started writing in the early '90s -- about the same time I did moved here, so I feel an affinity with him for that reason. However, he is also the kind of accessible writer that appeals to you on a down to ear level. You feel like he's your friend even though you've never met him. His writing is effortless to read, it flows and twists and takes you on a trip. It makes you l ...more
Nov 10, 2009 Brenda rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: ss
If you've never read Sherman Alexie, please do not start here. Get a copy of Tonto and the Lone Ranger Fist Fight in Heaven or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian ASAP. These works will make you laugh and cry and marvel at Alexie's genius. Established fans will most likely read this one, and although the short stories and poems are well written, might find War Dances lacking that wry humor and force that Alexie's other works carry.

P.S. Sherman Alexie - when I read Flight, I thought
I recently heard Alexie speak as part of Montana State University President's Fine Arts Series. This year's series, Creative Nations showcased Native American artists of all kinds.
I was most familiar with Alexie as the writer of the movie Smoke Signals (highly recommended if you have never seen it), but had not read his poetry or short stories. I can't add much more than the review by Madeline which I have "Liked". I was a bit disappointed that he did not read so
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Sherman Alexie can say a lot in so few words, it is hard to pinpoint why these poems and short stories are so touching. I will not forget the story about his father and the blanket. Other favorite bits include "Home of the Braves" and the musings on music in "The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless." The story itself (Paul) was disturbing, but I was caught up in the embedded philosophy.
Sherman Alexie’s classic short story, “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona,” makes you feel as though someone has Kung-Fu gripped your heart, just really squeezed the hell out of the thing. In the immortal words of John Mellencamp during his prolific “John Cougar” phase, Alexie’s writing hurts so good. , Alexie’s latest collection of short fiction, poetry, autobiography, and genre defying acrobatics, is no exception.

In “On Airplanes” one of War Dances longer poems, the speaker complain
Alexie's latest, a multi-genre collection of short stories, poetry, and question and answer sequences, has been greatly anticipated. In one word...ANGST...fills the pages of Alexie's most recent publication. His Indian angst, father/son angst, Catholic angst, racial angst, sex angst, gay angst, writer angst, etc. is too much for me. I wondered what it must be like to live with him. Clearly a complex, deep-thinking man, reading this book was like a college exercise (I have an English degree). One ...more
i just put this book on hold at the library as soon as i heard of its existence. i didn't know if it was short stories or a novel or what. it turned out to be short stories mixed with poetry. i wasn't entirely psyched about this, because i am really not a fan of poetry. i know poetry is really sherman alexie's big thing--the dude writes a lot of poetry. i surprised myself by actually liking a lot of it. they were like observations in prose form, as opposed to whimsical crap about nature or whate ...more
Josh L.
Synopsis: Ward Dances was a quick read. It didn't have one big story line and it had poems and short stories. One of my favorite stories was about a righter who had his house broken into while he was in the heat of writing a story. Startled and scared the writer approached the intruder with a baseball bat and struck him a good blow right to the head. It killed the young black intruder on impact and every one in town thought he was a monster for murdering this young black kid. Weeks later, the wh ...more
Meghan Fidler
For my untrained and unpublished tastes and pleasures, Sherman Alexie is at his best while he is mixing genres. I adore the short story "War Dances," which combines interviews, poetry, multiple choice questions, and narrative to produce a sense of disconnected time and emotions for the reader. "War Dances" is not only filled with exemplars of this writing style, it is also filled with people: real characters developed in the difficult tandem of well paired action and thought.
An example of such
This book is the one to read if I wished to write an almost fictionalized story of events in my life. Some of Alexie's stories have some element in common with his life, and I think of times in my life that I would write about the people and places I have found interesting.
"The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless" sounds so much like perhaps Alexie is thinking out loud and writing down encounters in his life. Sara Smile is like so many dreamgirls (dream women) that I have seen or met. I daydream and w
Sara Habein
Thanks to Sherman Alexie, I will forever be pilfering the phrase “terminally nostalgic.” When I saw him read back in December, I asked him how he felt about seeing the places he has written about disappear over time. He said that he was constantly thinking about what was no more, even down to the now-closed doughnut shop where he worked for three weeks, and that as a Spokane Indian, nostalgia will always be a part of who he is.

Because of this, Alexie’s work is forever filled with a sense of long
War dances to zbiór różnych form literackich: opowiadań, wierszy i innych trudniejszych do sklasyfikowania. Sherman pisze w swoich tekstach o rasizmie, problemach małżeńskich, kryzysie tradycji, zmianach przekonań. Mamy więc młodego Indianina, który odbywa staż w lokalnej gazecie gdzie pod czujnym okiem dziennikarki uczy się pisać nekrologi, syna senatora, który musi nauczyć się wielu rzeczy o winie i odkupieniu, czy też niewiernego małżonka, który po portach lotniczych szuka nowej miłości swoje ...more
sherman alexie is a swell guy. he's funny, creative, antagonistic, self-deprecating, and unabashed. these qualities are evident in his writing, and make for a refreshing, enjoyable read. war dances, alexie's newest collection of short stories, short pieces, and short poems, is an entertaining work. while i don't find any of it to be extraordinary, per se, there certainly is much to like. of the stories, "breaking and entering," "the senator's son," "the ballad of paul nonetheless," and "salt" st ...more
I’m damn glad not to be Paul Nonetheless, who doesn’t want to be forgotten. Or the senator’s son. And I wish that – without the diabetes and alcoholism and decades of disappointment – I could hear my father sing a beautiful death song. A real one.

That’s how affecting is Sherman Alexie’s ‘War Dances.’ This collection of stories is arresting in its honesty, vulnerability, and extraordinary expression of the ordinary lonely, the confused, the lusty, the scared, the fully human in so many dimension
Jeffrey May
In War Dances, Sherman Alexie blends poetry, short stories, and experimental vignettes into a strangely cohesive and brilliant work of fiction. His “soft” prose wields the impact of a sledgehammer, and he creates literary magic. Lesser writers often look foolish attempting what Alexie makes look easy.

For example, “Fearful Symmetry” appears to be a semi-autobiographical tale, as Sherwin Polatkin, a serious fiction writer, becomes demoralized by Hollywood phoniness. Polatkin loses his will to writ
I think I have fallen in love with Sherman Alexie's voice. I do not usually listen to talking books done by the author. Unfortunately the ability to write is not tied to the ability to narrate. However, this is the second book I have listened to by Alexie and I can't imagine going back to just reading his stories and poems. Last time I used a Playaway, this time I had the book in MP3CD format.

This book is a collection of over 20 stories and poems. I found most of them to be wonderful and many to
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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
More about Sherman Alexie...
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