Robert Arthur Alexie

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Robert Arthur Alexie (July 22, 1957 - June 10, 2014) was a Canadian First Nations novelist.

Alexie was born in Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories and lived in Inuvik. He served as Tribal chief of the Tetlit Gwich'in of Fort McPherson and also served as the vice president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council for two terms, helping achieve a land claims agreement. He was again elected as President of the Gwich'in Tribal Council in July 2012.


Porcupines and China Dolls[edit]

His first novel, Porcupines and China Dolls (published in 2002) examines the lives of students forced into the Canadian Indian residential school system [1] and the ensuing intergenerational or Historical trauma for them and their families..

Thomas King explains the novel's title in The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative: "the girls had been scrubbed and powdered to look like china dolls and the boys had been scrubbed and sheared to look like porcupines"[1] One of the lines from which the title draws its name comes from Alexie writing, "No one heard the little china doll that night, but if she were given a voice, it would've sounded like a million porcupines screaming in the dark."[2]

Author of The Lesser Blessed, Richard Van Camp's review of Porcupines and China Dolls suggests, "[t]his book will initiate more healing than any of us will ever know. It's hard but good medicine."[3]

King also indicates that Alexie—alongside Eden Robinson, Harry Robinson and Ruby Slipperjack— creates "fictions... primarily for a Native audience, making a conscious decision not so much to ignore non-Native readers as to write for the very people they write about",[4] suggesting that the text does not provide enough of a debriefing for a non-Native audience to understand its weight historically.

The Pale Indian[edit]

Alexie's sophomore novel, The Pale Indian (published in 2005), offers perhaps an even less clear historical debriefing than its predecessor, confirming King's suspicions about intended audience. The Pale Indian takes place in the 1980s and surround's a young man's return to his northern community after being raised in Calgary by an adoptive white family. The novel is both a love story and a tragedy. The Pale Indian is full of energetic sex and humour[5] that provide respite from some of the more serious issues that the novel confronts.

The Pale Indian has been referred to as "a novel of secrets, lies, and madness written with power and eloquence".[6]


Porcupines and China Dolls (2002), ISBN 978-1-894778-72-5

The Pale Indian (2005), ISBN 978-0-14-301553-6


  1. ^ King, Thomas, The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative, (Toronto, House of Anansi, 2003), 116.
  2. ^ Alexie, Robert, Porcupines and China Dolls (Toronto, Stoddart, 2002), 5.
  3. ^
  4. ^ King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative, (Toronto, House of Anansi, 2003), 115-116.
  5. ^ "Authentic Indian Voices Speak With Pain, Honesty." Winnipeg Free Press (MB) 6 March 2005: b8. Web. 7 May 2010.
  6. ^