THE LAYERED LITERARY EXISTENCE OF THE YOUNG ADULT NATIVE AMERICAN MAN
Sorensen, Trenton J.
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Within Native American literature, young adult Native American men face many obstacles to success on the journey to a layered existence that straddles the reservation line. The men face stereotypes, tribal attitudes, poverty, alcoholism, and an overall mental struggle to survive as Native American men that leaves them wobbling on the dividing line between two worlds. The men have to overcome the obstacles in order to achieve a sturdy balance of existence and successfully go back and forth between the Native world and the outside world. Within Sherman Alexie's texts The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and The Toughest Indian in the World; Alexie's films The Business of Fancydancing and Smoke Signals; Richard Van Camp's The Lesser Blessed; and James Welch?s Winter in the Blood, the protagonists struggle to balance their culture with the Western-influenced outer world. The writers investigate tribal and non-tribal influences and pressures on their Blackfoot, Dogrib, Spokane, and Coeur d'Alene Native American male characters as well as the inner mental struggles that the protagonists undergo on a path towards a balanced existence. This layered existence connects with two-spirit identities through issues of self acceptance and tribal and non-tribal influences on personal identity choices and classifications, particularly within Alexie's texts and films. Overall, tribal peoples, as well as surrounding populations, collude to create a hostile environment for Native American men within the selected texts, and the protagonists are forced to fight for their own existences and to achieve a life that combines the best of their culture with the opportunities available off the reservation, albeit at varying levels of balance. Alexie, Van Camp, and Welch present complex characters who face obstacles that can push them closer to their Indian heritage or further away in order to gain a sense of belonging and acceptance, and these colluding forces have to be balanced in order for these young adult Native American male characters to live a harmonious life within a layered literary existence.
Indians of North America intellectual life
American literature Indian authors
Indians in literature