War Dances is a collection of short stories and poems written by Sherman Alexie and published in 2009. In 2010, War Dances won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Sherman Alexie is a Spokane-Coeur d’Alene-American artist, writing novels, short stories, poetry, and making films. Much of his work draws from his own experiences as a Native American with a lineage from multiple tribes. When Alexie was growing up, he lived on the Spokane Indian Reservation but now lives in Seattle, Washington.
Alexie and his publisher chose not to categorize War Dances, but it appears to be like a story collection, with five longer pieces, about six shorter pieces, and a dozen poems. His writing is extremely insightful, both when describing a Native American’s last moments with his father as well as when narrating a privileged white senator’s son’s life. He channels themes common to everyone, such as parenthood, divorce, gender and racial conflicts, drug abuse, 9/11, and war, hence the title of the work.
Combining wit and emotion, cultures and families, as a son fights futilely against his father’s passing. From alcoholism to tumors, Alexie narrates stories that are familiar enough to channel the emotions of the reader though the circumstances are completely foreign. In War Dances, Alexie creates one of his deepest critiques of his own Native American culture, in the context of a hospital, an inefficient medical system, and the bond between two Native Americans who are strangers to one another.