I find it very odd that the one stroy by Alexie that academics have latched on to is “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona.” Well, it is not that odd. It is a good example just how far you can bend point of view. Also, the character of Thomas Builds-the-Fire is a compulsive storyteller, and there is nothing more that a teacher of writing likes more than a character that tells stories within a story.
I love Alexie’s short fiction, my favorite being, “The Sin Eaters,” a story that should be a movie. The trailer would start like this,
“In a world on the verge of collapse, where the greatest plague humanity has ever seen threatens our very survival, researchers discover a horrible and tragic solution.”
In Alexie’s story, the only way that humanity can survive is through Native American blood. Blood that the United States of America has tried to so desperately send the way of the dinosaurs is ironically needed to save our species from global extinction. So, anyone with at least quarter-heritage is rounded up and bled for the cure. However, the degradation does not stop there because there are not enough Native Americans left to save the world. So, Native Americans are forced to begin breeding with one another in brick and wire camps like cattle.
The government in Alexie’s “Sin Eaters” would pass me by. I too would need the healing magic of their blood. I’m too diluted to claim heritage. I never knew my grandfather, John Wilson, of the Cherokee Nation. My father, an orphan, has pictures and research that he has shown me. And that is all that we know of John and our Cherokee blood, whispers upon the wings of the wind.
“The Sin Eaters” is a great story. If I am ever so lucky as to be able to teach literature and writing, I will choose this terrifying tale over “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona.” Both good stories, but "The Sin Eaters" means much more too me.
Alexie, Sherman.“The Sin Eaters.” The Toughest Indian in the World. Berkeley: Grove Press, 2001