Discovering Sherman Alexie

I always try to follow my intuition. Thus it was that a couple of weeks ago, with deadlines pressing on me, and pressure from all sides, I decided to ignore my intellectual protestations and listen to my inner voice.

That voice whispered to me:

You haven’t looked at The Atlantic for a while, have you? Go check it out.”

So I did, and I came across an interview with a writer I’d never heard of, Sherman Alexie.

Alexie is a Native American writer, which is why I suppose I’d never come across his work. Interestingly, he refers to himself as “Indian”, which we are told is politically incorrect. I think I’d rather take Alexie’s word for that. But anyway….

Sherman Alexie - Photo by Cynthinee http://www.flickr.com/photos/cynthinee/

I really enjoyed reading his story, which I found somewhat moving. Reading about him inspired me to write an autobiographical article called Three cheers for anti-plagiarism software. Which, as it happens, relates the opposite experience to his: Alexie talks about how a teacher inspired him to write; my teacher, on the other hand, thought I’d ripped off someone else’s work.

In the interview, Alexie also relates this story, which I absolutely love:

Joy Harjo, who’s a Creek Indian poet and a jazz musician, was once asked by a white reporter why she played the saxophone, since it’s not an Indian instrument.

And she said: “It is when I play it.”

After reading the article, I made a beeline for my local library. Amazingly, they had one of his books: Flight (click on that link to not only buy the book, but also to contribute a small commission to my household income. As I may have mentioned elsewhere, I have a wife and seven kids to support. And as I think I also pointed out, the aforementioned wife and kids are not mine, but we’re very close!) But I digress.

I found some parts of the book, which is fictional, a bit harrowing, but also moving and, ultimately, celebratory of the human spirit.

I also reserved, and have now picked up, a copy of his well-known book, Lone Ranger And Tonto Fistfight In Heaven, which I am greatly looking forward to starting.

So, there you have it: following my intuition led me to discover a writer I hadn’t encountered, books I hadn’t read, and some wonderful emotional and intellectual reading experiences. And I have also been inspired to write two blog posts as well!

(There has also been another unintended outcome, but a welcome one: as well as inspiring me to read more Sherman Alexie books, this experience has made me want to explore further Native American/Indian writings. See the NDNs With Pens reference below for links to several books.)

Here’s that interview I talked about. Do read it: The Poem That Made Sherman Alexie Want to 'Drop Everything and Be a Poet'

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