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‘A Reservation Hero is a Hero Forever’: Basketball, Irony, and Humor in the Novels of James Welch, Sherman Alexie, and Stephen Graham Jones

Native Games: Indigenous Peoples and Sports in the Post-Colonial World

ISBN: 978-1-78190-591-3, eISBN: 978-1-78190-592-0

ISSN: 1476-2854

Publication date: 4 July 2013

Abstract

Purpose – This chapter attempts to provide a literary analysis of the various ways in which the importance of basketball in North American Native culture has been represented in literature produced by three Native American authors: James Welch, Stephen Graham Jones, and Sherman Alexie.

Design/methodology/approach – The foundation of this study is derived from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s account of his experiences as a coach of Apache players in Arizona in A Season on The Reservation, and the example of Shoni Schimmel, from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, who is featured in the documentary, Off the Rez. These documentary accounts are supplemented by a critical apparatus drawn from the ideas of the Anishinaabe critic, Gerald Vizenor.

Findings – The character of the Native basketball star functions as a complex signifier that resists Western conceptions of individual achievement and success in favor of Native conceptions of community and cultural survivance.

Research limitations/implications – The limitations of literary analysis stem from the engagement with a body of Native literature that is by no means comprehensive. In addition, the views expressed by each writer are necessarily punctuated by narrative ambiguity and indeterminacy.

Originality/value – The chapter provides a unique introduction to the motif of basketball in contemporary Native American fiction and the storytelling practices from which meaning emerges. The analysis of the works addressed highlights a Native-centered interpretive approach that reveals the complex meaning of basketball in Native American society. The use of this culturally responsive critical paradigm allows readers to approach Native literary achievement on its own terms, rather than from the perspective of the dominant culture.

Keywords

Citation

Stratton, B.J. (2013), "‘A Reservation Hero is a Hero Forever’: Basketball, Irony, and Humor in the Novels of James Welch, Sherman Alexie, and Stephen Graham Jones", Native Games: Indigenous Peoples and Sports in the Post-Colonial World (Research in the Sociology of Sport, Vol. 7), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 43-57. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1476-2854(2013)0000007007

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013 Emerald Group Publishing Limited