‘‘Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock’’ was first published in Sherman Alexie’s 1993 short story collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Although Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, had previously published three books, this collection gave him much greater exposure and was a critical and popular success. In 1998, when Alexie adapted part of the collection into a movie entitled Smoke Signals, the book—and Alexie—received even more exposure. Alexie is one of many late twentieth-century Native-American authors who have found acceptance with the general public in recent years. Many feel this literary renaissance was sparked by N. Scott Momaday’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1968 novel, House Made of Dawn, which details the alienation of the modern Native American in American society.
Like many of Alexie’s works, the stories in this collection all take place on or around the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington State, where Alexie grew up, and detail the many hardships that Native Americans face on reservations. In addition, many of the stories draw upon characters created in Alexie’s earlier works. In ‘‘Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi Hendrix Play ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock,’’ one of these characters, Victor, recalls his father’s separation from the family through several forms of escape. The story addresses the turbulent nature of reservation relationships, the widespread use of alcohol among Native Americans, and the power of music. Most importantly, the story underscores the struggle to survive against the loss of cultural identity. The story can be found in the paperback version of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, which was published by HarperPerennial in 1994.