As a Native American, born and reared on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington, Sherman Alexie knows how difficult it is for someone to make his way in an alien society without losing his own identity. In his poetry and short stories, and in the novel RESERVATION BLUES (1995), Alexie reveals the plight of Native Americans.
However, unlike Alexie’s earlier works, INDIAN KILLER is starkly tragic. It begins with injustice, the virtual kidnapping of a newborn Native American baby so that a white couple can have the child they desire. Although at first their love seems enough to guarantee his happiness, in time John Smith comes to feel that he does not belong with them. However, not knowing even his mother’s tribe, John cannot rejoin his people. He moves to Seattle, and there he finds an answer. He will become an Indian warrior, killing whites as a form of initiation into Native American society.
Informed that a Native American is responsible for the murders, a seemingly enlightened city reveals its deep-seated prejudice. A talk show host inflames the public and prompts acts of violence. However, he is really no worse than the “wannabe” Indians who profit by attaching themselves to a culture about which they know nothing. Alexie does not waste much sympathy even on well-meaning whites, like John’s adoptive parents, and he ends his novel by predicting that other Native Americans will arise to avenge their people. INDIAN KILLER is perceptive, well-crafted, and suspenseful; unfortunately, it does not offer much hope for the establishment of a peaceful, multicultural society.
Sources for Further Study
Boston Globe. November 10, 1996, p. E16.
Chicago Tribune. November 17, 1996, XIV, p. 3.
The Christian Science Monitor. January 6, 1997, p. 13.
Kirkus Reviews. LXIV, August 1, 1996, p. 1064.
Library Journal. CXXI, August, 1996, p. 109.
The New York Times Book Review. CI, November 24, 1996, p. 34.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLIII, September 16, 1996, p. 39.
San Francisco Chronicle. September 29, 1996, p. REV3.
Time. CXLVIII, October 21, 1996, p. 90.
The Washington Post. October 18, 1996, p. D3.