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One Book One Philadelphia: Sherman Alexie’s “War Dances”


story by Lee StabertWar Dances, the latest collection from writer Sherman Alexie, is a magnificent hodgepodge. It is also the latest selection for the Free Library’s One Book One Philadelphia Project—a citywide book club. In this deceptively thin volume, short stories, poetry and even a bullet-point list (crafted to leave you quaking with laughter and emotion all at once) rub up against each other, offering meditations on themes as diverse as the writer’s narrative structures. Alexie is Native American, and that cultural identity is often a jumping-off point for parsing class, race, sexuality, marriage, attraction, violence, politics authenticity, parenthood and even the Proustian effects of John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club. The Washington State native (Seattle via Spokane) has a literary voice that is never pretentious, occasionally heartbreaking and often hilarious—sometimes within the course of the same sentence. He is also intensely readable; gobble War Dances in one sitting or nip at it sparingly, letting its understated truth linger.
One Book One Philadelphia runs January 19 to March 17, 2011; Alexie’s young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (winner of the National Book Award) has also been selected.

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