19 pages 38 minutes read

Sherman Alexie

On the Amtrak from Boston to New York City

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1993

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“On the Amtrak” examines the stories of history and the power in its telling. Contrary to its title, this poem does not give writing advice. It instead focuses on the harmful fictions of cultural stereotypes. It is another example of Alexie’s perspective, use of irony, and facility with narratives and counter-narratives.

Dakota Homecoming" by Gwen Nell Westerman (2018)

Gwen Nell Westerman is a Dakota and Cherokee poet. In this poem she explores the colonization and commercialization of Native American lands and peoples. Both this poem and “On the Amtrak” use ironic distance between the indigenous speaker and the spoken words of a clueless representative of white America to underscore their sharp insights.

An American Sunrise" by Joy Harjo (2017)

The speaker in this lyric poem by Harjo, a poet from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, calls for justice from their oppressors. Alexie’s speaker thinks about what he may say in a future encounter. Written two decades after “On the Amtrak,” “An American Sunrise” is a vocalized and defiant cry of proud survival in the present of the poem: “We are still America. We / know the rumors of our demise.