Why do you think The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven has become a significant book?
Sherman Alexie is a current author that is demonstrating by his works significant attention to two very important social issues that run across generations and societies: young adult activity and the results of Native Americans being robbed of their land, and therefore their culture or way of life in many ways.
First, the silly experiences of Victor and Thomas Builds-The-Fire in This is what it means to say Phoenix, AZ demonstrate adolescence at it's best. Teenagers live loudly. These guys are no different. Bullying occurs, friendships develop and change, and teens struggle with the choices of their parents. Young people often take in so much of a society and then change it for the better. This is difficult when Native Americans have been limited to their reservation life.
For the Native American, Alexie uses this work to satirize life on the reservation. He mocks alcohol consumption and demonstrates that depression is real and a part of their circumstances, but the traits he gives characters demonstrates that people certainly can choose depression and live with it while others who don't experience joy and the celebration of Native American culture and history.
For the European American, or tresspassing American, Alexie reminds us to be respectful to Native Americans. Our forefathers have rudely intruded and created a new society. This is a great work to remind us to value their culture and help them maintain it.
Because he is one of few widely read Native American authors and because this novel introduces so much humor, he succeeds in achieving his purposes for writing.
Fantastic post above. Besides being extremely prolific (13 books of poetry published, eight works of fiction, and two movies to his credit, all at the age of 44), Sherman Alexie is a standard-bearer of the next generation of native writers to follow up on the work of James Welch and N. Scott Momaday (among others).
This particular story, I think, brilliantly captures the contradictions and struggles of the modern day Native American, the daily life on reservations, social issues, and the ongoing effort to preserve some semblance of culture and custom.
Alexie is also unflinchingly honest, in this story and the rest as well. He doesn't shy away from those issues that might be considered controversial among native peoples, and he doesn't apologize for it either. He doesn't ignore the stereotypes, but makes fun of them in a way the reader can't help but appreciate.