O’siyo. Famous Native author Sherman Alexie is a member of the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene people. In addition to being a writer (he’s written 22 books) Alexie is also a poet and filmmaker. His newest books are Blasphemy, a collection of short stories and What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned, a book of poems. Nearly all of his books draw on his experiences growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. The following is an excerpt of an interview by the New York Times of the prolific writer who reveals an interesting side of his personality.
Excerpt: Sherman Alexie: By the Book, New York Times
NYT: What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?
SA: Lawrence Wright’s “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.” It’s an examination of one cult religion but can also be read as a primer on the basic cultlike nature of all religions.
NYT: Who are your favorite novelists?
SA: My favorite novelists and short-story writers are Louise Erdrich, Michael Connelly, Lorrie Moore, James Welch, Toni Morrison, Dennis Lehane, Kelly Link, David Markson, Mo Hayder, Ralph Ellison, Leslie Marmon Silko, Aimee Bender, Jim Carroll and Colin Harrison.
NYT: And your favorite poets?
SA: James Wright, Erica Dawson, Emily Dickinson, C. K. Williams, Ai, Adrian C. Louis, Catherine Pierce, James Welch and A. E. Stallings.
NYT: Any new books by Native American authors you would recommend? And your all-time favorite literary works by Native Americans?
SA: Stephen Graham Jones, a Blackfeet Indian, has written tons of sci-fi, horror, crime and experimental fiction. He’s not new but should certainly be read by many more people. My favorite work of Native American literature is “Ceremony,” by Leslie Marmon Silko.
NYT: What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of?
SA: I tend to read books that feature crime, criminals and justice. I stay clear of any book with “Native American spirituality” in the description.
NYT: What book has had the greatest impact on you?
SA: “Fire Water World: Poems,” by Adrian C. Louis. It’s the best example of free-verse Reservation Noir ever. And remains one of my guideposts.
NYT: Do you have a favorite childhood literary character or hero?
SA: Daredevil, the Man Without Fear. A blind and very mortal superhero. I pretended he was part Indian.
NYT: If you could meet any character from literature, who would it be?
“Everyone I have lost
in the closing of a door
the click of the lock
is not forgotten, they
do not die but remain
within the soft edges
of the earth, the ash
of house fires and cancer
in sin and forgiveness
huddled under old blankets
dreaming their way into
my hands, my heart
closing tight like fists.
- “Indian Boy Love Song #1”
~Sherman Alexie~ The Business of Fancy Dancing
“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.”
“Life is a constant struggle between being an individual and being a member of the community.”
“When it comes to death, we know that laughter and tears are pretty much the same thing.”
“If you’re good at it, and you love it, and it helps you navigate the river of the world, then it can’t be wrong.”
“Kindness takes you everywhere. It’s the best part of human evolution; when we aren’t kind, we’re regressing back to our primitive roots.”
~Sherman Alexie~ Interview Parent Map, 2012.
Kudos to Sherman Alexie for continuing to be a great role-model for young people.
A special “Wado” to Professor G.R. of Brandeis University for sending us email about this article. Much Appreciation.