The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven

Dialogues
Notes
Links
Teaching
Citations

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven is what is referred to as a collection of short stories. It could also be seen as a memoir by Sherman Alexie made up of a collection of vignettes about life in and around the Spokane Indian Reservation. Each vignette focuses on a different character. While we see several of the characters in more than one story, the book as a whole doesn't focus on any one character. The book opens with "Every Little Hurricane" which describes the turbulent relationship of Victor's parents,and the atmosphere of the reservation. This short story gives us our first vision of the reservation and its inhabitants, and does a fairly accurate foreshadowing of the connectivity of the collection.

The book continues with stories of Victor and other characters like Thomas Builds-a-Fire who loves to tell stories. He tells tales of the history of his people as if he lived it.

About the author: Sherman Alex is a Native American Poet born in 1966. He has numerous accomplishments listed on a website dedicated to Sherman Alexie. He has published numerous volumes of poetry, a few novels, and of course short stories. He also speaks at various colleges on the topics of his and others poetry as well as his Native American ethnicity.

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  Dialogues

This book relates well with Morning Girl in that it is about the Native American experience only it is contemporary. While Dorris's book is narrated by the girl, The Lone Ranger is narrated by several characters. The story that is most like Morning Girl is the first one, Every Little Hurricane, because it is about a child, but they could all be pertinent in a comparison. Morning Girl and Star Boy are wise for children, and that would be a great parallel to the characters in all of Alexie's stories. The mystic quality in Morning Girl could be compared to Thomas-Builds-the-Fire's storytelling.

 

In The Trial of Thomas Builds-the-Fire (p. 93), the defendant gives testimony that he was alive in 1858 and took part in a battle against the "white-man." This story is full of stereotypes that Thomas is subject to like even being put on trial in the first place for a story.

"This is what it means to say Phoenix, Arizona" (59) is a wonderful story about a young man finding his way in the world he lives in. Victor has lived most of his life without his father, as many young people today have done, and finds that his father has passed away. He has taken on the responsibility of going to Phoenix, Arizona to get the truck his father left him. In the process, he finds what it means to be a friend and a son. This chapter is the basis of Alexie's screenplay Smoke Signals. This movie is an excellent way to become familiar with this book because it not only references this story, but also other stories in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven.
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  Notes

I would like to say that this book is great for teaching that the way the Native Americans were treated in the past is not necessarily that much different from how they are treated now. This is made evident in Thomas-Builds-the-Fire's stories about the massacre of thousand's of Natives. I've tried to link this to a specific massacre, but was unable to find it. I did however think that this section would make an excellent pairing with Peter Nabokov's Native American Testimony so that we can see through natives' own stories that Thomas is closer than some people might think to telling the truth.

It's great to show that to students. Here is a great link to the Nabokov book for teachers:

http://ishi.lib.berkley.edu/history7B/NativeAmericanTestimony.htm

It has thoughtful questions for the reading of the text.

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  Links


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 http://www.bhny.com/staff/staff57.htm This is just a site with a book review and access to buying the book online. The review is a very accurate description of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven.

Teaching Sites:

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http://www.cbc2.org/instruct/social_science/ICS125.html

This site is a syllabus for a course on Native American Culture. There is some good information on the way the book can be treated in a class.

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http://www.shsu.edu/~eng_dxd/multicultural.html

Another site that consists of a syllabus for a class; this one is an introduction to multicultural literature. This professor has give several links to other web sites for each of the books used in the class. The links for The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven are extensive because the background of the collection is represented in them.

Native Culture sites:

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http://www.nativeculture.com/lisamitten/indians.html

This is a site that consists mainly of links to information about Indians. It is divided into categories such as Nations, Languages, Indians as Mascots, Colleges, Powwows, and many more. The site is run by a former librarian who is now an editor of a library journal. She states her intentions for the site on the first page. This site is worth a look. Check it out.

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http://www.hanksville.org/NAresources

Another great index to web information about Native Americans. It includes categories like Culture, History, Health, Education, and Art, to name only a few. There is also a category Activism. This site is also worth the numerous hours it will entice you to be there. Make sure you read the first page before clicking the links the site manager has some words of advice/warning.

Sherman Alexie sites:

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http://www.fallsapart.com/index.html

This site contains all you will ever want or need to know about Sherman Alexie. Everything from a biographical entry to a page from which you can buy his books is included in this, the official sherman alexie site

 

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  Teaching

This text could be difficult to put into a course already designed, but it could also be extremely easy. Because each "chapter" is a complete story in itself, much like The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, one could extract one of the stories as a supplement to a larger piece of work. These stories could be used in a course focusing on Native American writers and the effects of reservation life on contemporary Natives. See the teaching links in the previous section. Many of the vignettes also focus on family life and its importance in young people's lives in general, making it ideal for a middle school or a high school class.

I, myself, have used both "Every Little Hurricane" as an introduction to writing about our families in a freshman-level writing class and "This is what it means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" in a Multicultural literature class. It is also good to link to Alexie's movie Smoke Signals. Here is a great link to a site for using Smoke Signals in the Classroom:

http://www.cord.edu/dept/principia/smoke.html

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  Citations

Nabokov, Peter, ed. Native American Testimony. New York: Penguin, 1999.

Cisneros, Sandra. House on Mango Street. New York: Vintage, 1991.

Dorris, Michael. Morning Girl. New York: Hyperion, 1992.

Colonial & Postcolonial Literary Dialogues

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