I have been a Sherman Alexie fan ever since I read The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. I thought then, and still think, that more people should read his work. Blasphemy, (Grove, $27), a collection of new and previously published stories, is a great place to start if you have yet to discover this uniquely gifted writer. I find his stories by turns beautiful, poetic, heartbreaking, funny, scary, and real. His work is always salted with a good dash of anger—he grew up on the Spokane Indian reservation and his work reflects this experience. Alexie never backs down from the harsh realities of life on the reservation, but there is always poetry there, too (and Alexie has also published several collections of poems). His characters are often self-effacing and ravaged by deprivation, hunger, alcoholism, but are beautiful nonetheless. Alexie is a master at mixing the beautiful with the profane—and that is the essence of Blasphemy.
Set on the Ojibwe Indian reservation in North Dakota, Louise Erdrich’s The Round House (HarperCollins, $27.99) is the story of a young son’s search for justice after the brutal beating of his mother. Like all of Erdrich’s novels, this vivid fiction immerses readers in the inter-connected family relationships of the reservation, a world animated by enduring cultural traditions. Erdrich is particularly insightful about Native Americans’ day-to-day existence and shows the uneasy balance characters must continually negotiate between tribal law and politics and the outside world.