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Tales of ‘urban Indian’ are city’s choice for One Book

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Next year, thousands of people in Philadelphia will be reading the celebrated Native American author Sherman Alexie. His 2009 book “War Dances” has been chosen by the Philadelphia Free Library for the annual “One Book One Philadelphia” program.

“War Dances” will be paired with one of his other books — a young adult novel called “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”

“War Dances” is not a novel – which already bucks the trend of citywide book celebrations. It’s a collection of short fiction, creative non-fiction, poems and other items.

“Some pieces are lists — but everything is done with profundity, and mixed emotions,” said Marie Field, who chairs the board that chose the book. “There’s poignancy, there are things that are bittersweet. Tragicomedy comes to mind.”

From his home in Seattle, Alexie said he was surprised to learn the book was chosen, with its scattershot structure.

“I thought of it as a mix tape. It’s kind of a love letter to my family, on one level,” said Alexie. “On another level, it’s about urban Indians. You could say it’s a book telling my reservation family what my urban Indian life has become.”

Aside from one uncle, Alexie said he is the only member of his extended family to leave the Spokane reservation in Washington State.

There will be more than 100 events revolving around “War Dances” next year, including readings, film screenings and community workshops.

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