Sherman Alexie, Circadian Rhythms

(nothing so fun as catching typos like "Alexia" for "Alexie" in posts that are months old... long-time GSLISers will know why I made the error....)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
What they're saying is true, this is a beautiful book. From the scene where Junior's new friend Gordy tells him that books and learning should give him a "metaphorical boner" to the scene where his mom rejects the gift of a pow-wow dancing outfit from the white man Ted (not that Ted fully understands that his hand-outs are being scoffed at, but all the folks on the res do), this book is outstanding. Alexie shows the frustration of being the only "Indian" at his high school besides the mascot. There's a section from this that I'll be reading to my storytelling classes this spring to spark discussions about cultural ownership.

Two quotes, both relevant to storytelling in different ways:
"So Coach and I sat awake all night.
We told each other many stories.
But I never repeat those stories.
That night belongs to just me and my coach." (p. 149)

"'It looks more like Sioux to me,' my mother said. 'Maybe Oglala. Maybe, I'm not an expert. Your anthropologist wasn't much of an expert, either. He got this way wrong.'
We all just sat there in silence as Ted mulled that over.
Then he packed his outfit back into the suitcase, hurried over to his waiting car, and sped away.
For about two minutes, we all sat quiet. Who knew what to say? And then my mother started laughing.
And that set us all off.
Two thousand Indians laughed at the same time." (p. 165-166)


Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream by Jennifer Ackerman

Do any of you have trouble sleeping like I do? Here's an interesting quote from this book, which is a very accessible synthesis of much recent research regarding our human bodies:
"In other cultures, such as the !Kung of Botswana, the Efe of the Congo, or the Gebusi of New Guinea, any one at all might be awake now [in the middle of the night]. In traditional, non-Western societies, social activity and frequent interruptions are often embedded in a night's sleep, say Carol Worthman, an anthropologist at Emory University. When Worthman conducted the first study of sleep patterns across a wide variety of traditional cultures, she discovered that the Western model of a habitual bedtime and a single spell of solitary sleep is rare indeed." (p. 176)

On p. 177, she talks about an historical study that found that in medieval Western societies, sleep often came in 2 sessions, "first sleep" and "second" or "morning sleep." Then Ackerman describes a contemporary study where subjects lived for one month in light conditions like those of a medieval winter in northern Europe, darkness from 6pm to 8am. "...[E]ventually, then fell into a pattern of two distinct periods, sleeping for four hours, from 8pm to midnight, awakening from REM sleep and staying awake for a couple of hours in quiet, 'nonanxious' rest, then falling back asleep at 2am for another four hours, until waking at 6am to start the day." (p. 177)

It's reassuring to someone who has frequent bouts of insomnia that come on about 4 hours after I've gone to sleep to read that I may be more normal than not.