Reservation Blues

Reservation Blues

Book - 1995
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Baker & Taylor
In a first novel by the author of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson appears on an Indian reservation to lead a Catholic rock band. 40,000 first printing. $50,000 ad/promo. Tour.

Blackwell North Amer
In 1931, Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil, receiving legendary blues skills in return. He went on to record only twenty-nine songs before being murdered on August 16, 1938. In 1992, however, Johnson suddenly appears on the Spokane Indian Reservation and meets Thomas Builds-the-Fire, the misfit storyteller of the Spokane Tribe.
So begins Reservation Blues, the mythic and musical tale of Coyote Springs, an all-Indian Catholic rock-and-roll band. With Thomas Builds-the-Fire as lead singer, Victor Joseph and Junior Polatkin on lead guitar and drums, and Chess and Checkers Warm Water on vocals, Coyote Springs takes their "four-and-a-half-chord rock and blues" to reservation bars, small town taverns, and the urban landscapes of Seattle and Manhattan.
Sherman Alexie brilliantly mixes narrative, newspaper excerpts, songs, journal entries, visions, radio interviews, and dreams to explore the effects of Christianity on Native Americans in the late twentieth century. More important, he examines cultural assimilation's impact on the relationship between Indian women and Indian men. Reservation Blues is a painful, humorous, and ultimately redemptive symphony about God and indifference, faith and alcoholism, family and hunger, sex and death.

& Taylor

Legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson appears on an Indian reservation to lead a Catholic rock band

Publisher: New York : Atlantic Monthly Press, c1995.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780871135940
Branch Call Number: ALE
Characteristics: 306 p. ; 24 cm.


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Apr 07, 2018

Spokane Indian story-teller Thomas Builds-the-Fire embarks on a magical musical tour
with his motley all Indian band after a visit from bluesman Robert Johnson. The quest, which leads the group to Seattle, New York and home as each member meets his/her "cross roads."
Funny, sad, poignant narrative of contemporary Native American life.

Nov 08, 2017

I really enjoyed this book. The story is fun because the Indian main characters are trying something new and exciting, namely becoming famous musicians, and these characters feel like real people. I was cheering for these people all the way through, and I hoped they would make a killing as rock and rollers and return to the reservation in triumph.

There are downers, like too much drunkenness and a cursed guitar that has a touch of the devil to it. There are sad stories for some of the characters, and none of them get out of the novel unscathed.

The writing is crisp and moves right along, but I only gave a nod to Sherman's skill with words. It was the characters who lift the story right off the pages and into your imagination. Read "Reservation Blues."

Jun 16, 2016

I loved the way the characters talked and reacted to each other. It was a good story, but I didn't like the ending...

Apr 02, 2016

Clichéd and done better by others.

JCLKarynH Sep 11, 2015

Sherman Alexie has been on my radar ever since reading "The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-time Indian." Alexie's power as a writer doesn't come from intensive world-building, but from the emotional effects of the environment (the Spokane Indian Reservations) that his characters inhabit. This book is no different. You will laugh and cry with the members of Coyote Springs as they play the blues, tour, and battle their own personal demons. Readers gain rare insight into being a modern-day Indian. Some of their struggles any member of a minority group will relate to. The juxtaposition of legend, magic, humor, social issues, and dark realism, make this novel a must read.

WVMLStaffPicks Nov 27, 2014

Alexie soars with originality as he takes us on a crazy road trip with Coyote Springs, a Native American rock band from the Spokane Indian Reservation. The poignant humour and pathos of modern Indian life are brilliantly evoked -- and the characters are wild, woolly and wonderful.

Jul 10, 2013

Thomas Builds-the-Fire is back! My favorite Alexie character ever forms an R&B band with Victor Joseph and another Spokane Indian in this book. This follows the band’s career, delving into the pasts and families of the band members. As I’ve come to expect from Alexie, it is by turns hilarious and tragic, with vivid gritty characters and scenes. A very satisfying read.

Feb 09, 2011

Reservation Blues ---- by Sherman Alexie c - 1995 ---- Excellent read! ---- Humor at its' best, the writing is very good. ---- Enjoy! ---- RichardPaul


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