Coming-of-age tales from an Indian reservation

Dance Me Outside, by W. P. Kinsella. Boston: David R. Godine. 160 pp. $14.95. ``Dance Me Outside,'' W. P. Kinsella's new collection of stories, contains characters with names like Mad Etta, Frank Fence Post, and Silas Ermineskin, the narrator. Set in Canada on the Ermineskin Indian Reserve, the stories have the lean quality of Hemingway's Nick Adams stories. There is a quiet sense of reservation life, of the underlying values of the Indian community, and the subtle but defiant lives led by the people on the reserve. The stories chronicle Silas's growth, and although he claims not to enjoy writing, he does it because his white instructor has told him he ``has a funny sense of humor.''

These stories also concern a young man becoming a writer as he grows into adulthood. Whether his subject is a trip to Las Vegas, his sister visiting the reservation with her white husband, or his comments on Indians and whites living side by side, the stories are some of the best writing available about growing up. Kinsella convincingly assumes Silas's voice, and what could read like a series of fictional/autobiographical folk tales becomes compelling fiction. Kinsella's lean prose avoids the clich'es of other writing about native Americans.

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