Identify the historical era Sherman Alexie is writing about in "What You Pawn I Will Redeem" and its significance to the story.

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"What You Pawn I Will Redeem" is most likely set around the time it was written and published, in 2003. There are several indicators of the time period throughout the piece. Sherman Alexie writes about several contemporary issues for Native Americans in the story, including racism, homelessness, poverty, uranium mining, alcoholism, and loss of identity. In an interview with WNYC studios, Alexie says,

I firmly believe in the power of stories to change the world, and I firmly believe in the power of one story to change one life at a time. I see it all the time with my work.

Alexie writes stories about contemporary problems faced by Native American youth in order to influence social change.

In addition, Alexie uses several indicators of contemporary popular culture to identify the setting of the story. For example, he mentions 7-Eleven. 7-Eleven is an easily identifiable place of commerce in today's society. The story says,

After about two hours of negotiating, we earned five dollars—good enough for a bottle of fortified courage from the most beautiful 7-Eleven in the world.

Alexie also mentions Real Change. He writes,

Real Change is a multifaceted organization that publishes a newspaper, supports cultural projects that empower the poor and the homeless, and mobilizes the public around poverty issues.

There are many more indicators throughout his writing, including Bainbridge Island Terminal, McDonald's, and Safeco.

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Sherman Alexie's "What You Pawn I Will Redeem" is contemporary to the time in which it was written.  The first publication of the story was in The New Yorker's April 2003 edition, so the story is likely set in the 1990s.  The protagonist Jackson lives in Seattle, but he is from Spokane.  Jackson also says that his people have lived with a 100-mile radius of Spokane for generations, so Spokane (the Spokane Indian Reservation) is the cultural hub for his people.  During the 1990s, Native Americans saw the implementation of more laws related to preserving and upholding their civil rights and liberties.  For example, the 1990 Indian Arts and Crafts Act called for the prevention of sales and marketing of items that look like Native American arts and crafts that are made by non-Native people.  So Alexie's story, appropriately so, is a quest for Jackson to reclaim his sense of identity, which has come out of an era espousing the same values.

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