Tribes – or what you can learn by reading fiction

The news earlier this week that Sherman Alexie had won the 2010 Pen/Faulkner Award for his novel War Dances reminded me that I’d been meaning to blog about the wonderful passage from his National Book Award winning novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The fact that the book is for young adults didn’t bother me a bit, especially when I came upon such a vivid illustration of what’s meant by tribes – digital or analog.

It’s so very clear when you engage with social media that we’re all members of many tribes. I’d love to see graphic illustration of tribes and how we connect with folks on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. based on our interests. Haven’t seen the app for that yet, although I’m betting there’s already one in the works.

‘I realized that I might be a lonely Indian boy,’ says Alexie’s protagonist, Junior, ‘but I was not alone in my loneliness…. I realized that sure, I was a Spokane Indian. I belonged to that tribe. But I also belonged to the tribe of American immigrants. And to the tribe of basketball players. And to the tribe of bookworms.

And the tribe of cartoonists.
And the tribe of chronic masturbators.
And the tribe of teenage boys.
And the tribe of small-town kids.
And the tribe of Pacific Northwesterners.
And the tribe of tortilla chips-and-salsa lovers.
And the tribe of poverty.
And the tribe of funeral go-ers.
And the tribe of beloved sons.
And the tribe of boys who really missed their best friends.’

‘It was a huge realization,’ concludes Junior. ‘And that’s when I knew that I was going to be okay.’

Whenever I think of this passage I immediately want to start listing tribes to which I belong. So I thought I’d give it a shot. Feel free to list some tribes to which you belong in the comments.

I’m a member of

the bookworm tribe
the feminist tribe
the WASP tribe
the Echo tribe
the PR tribe
the writer tribe
the social media tribe
the quilting tribe
the Canadian tribe
the Southern Alberta tribe (at the moment, anyway)
the Anglophile tribe
the Austen lovers tribe
the foreign film lovers tribe (my one regret about not having cable is the inability to get a dose of Bollywood once a week – don’t ask me why, I can’t explain it)
the Fitzgerald lovers tribe
the Salinger lovers tribe
the Eric Rohmer and Wim Wenders lovers tribe
the ‘why?’ girls’ tribe
the knitters’ tribe
the quilters’ tribe
the Six Feet Under tribe
the fast-talking Easterner tribe

That’s all I can think of at the moment. How about you?


About ruthseeley

Ottawa born, Toronto educated, lived in the Lower Mainland and southern AB for more than a decade. Passionate about community, democracy, and good books. Fond of the Oxford comma.
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