‘Amusements’ by Sherman Alexie

Alexie, Sherman 1993c

Amusements by Sherman Alexie, 1993

The magic trick:

Demonstrating the way external judgments mingle easily with internal loathing

Hey, listen, the title is ironic. Or maybe at least purposely misleading. The kids in the story should be amused; they should be having fun. They’re on a date at a carnival. Only problem is: it’s not fun. As young Native Americans at a mostly-white festival, they bear the burden of their race. They feel white eyes on them at all times, white opinions forming, white prejudices. What probably should be a stupid prank – they put a drunk, nearly-passed-out Indian on a nearby roller coaster – becomes a point of shame and self-loathing for the kids. It recalls early Philip Roth. And that’s quite a trick on Alexie’s part.

The selection:

“Sadie, he’s awake. We got to go het him.”

“Go get him yourself,” she said and walked away from me. I watched her move against the crowd, the only person not running to see the drunk Indian riding the Stallion. I turned back in time to watch Dirty Joe stumble from the roller coaster and empty his stomach on the platform. The carny yelled something I couldn’t hear, pushed Dirty Joe from behind, and sent him tumbling down the stairs face-first into the grass.


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