Author of novels, poems, short prose, films, and essays



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Author of novels, poems, short prose, films, and essays

  • Author of novels, poems, short prose, films, and essays
  • Born in Wellpinit, WA in 1966
  • Spokane Indian Reservation
  • Born hydrocephalic (water on the brain), had surgery at 6 months, not expected to survive.
  • Read Grapes of Wrath at 5 years old!!!
  • Ostracized by other children on the reservation
  • Decided to attended high school in Reardan (away from the reservation, only Indian child)

After graduating high school, he attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, in 1985.

  • After graduating high school, he attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, in 1985.
  • Dropped out of school after 2 years due to heavy drinking.
  • Was robbed at knife point
  • Went back to school (Washington State University)
  • Initially wanted to be a doctor but Alex Kuo inspired him to write poetry.
  • 1991 he finished his bachelor’s degree in American Studies.

The Business of Fancydancing, 1992.

  • The Business of Fancydancing, 1992.
    • First Published Work
    • 84 page collection of poems and short stories
    • Many read it as semi-autobiographical: ranging from themes of “drunken rage to playful humor and biting sarcasm, love poems and songs” (Grassian 15).
  • In regards to this title, “Ambiguity immediately appears in the title poem of the collection...Fancydancing is a traditional form of Native American dance that allows a single dancer to display his or her skill or cunning. At the same time it is a staged performance. The fancydancer is sly, intelligent, and able to outwit his oppressors. The modifier business suggest a colder economic reality, as if the fancydance itself has deteriorated from a high cultural art into a cold, economic necessity, possibly commodified by Western culture. It suggests that what was once and art has become a business and that the fancydancer, in this case the individual engaging in what should be a cherished, valued, cultural act, is using it for selfish aggrandizement, a kind of masquerade for money (Grassian 16).
  • The Business of Fancydancing (film), 2002.
  • Seymour Polatkin is a successful, gay Indian poet from Spokane who confronts his past when he returns to his childhood home on the reservation to attend the funeral of a dear friend.
  • Smoke Signals (Film), 1999.
    • Based on a few short stories from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.
    • One theme recognized is the forgiving of fathers, both biological and forefathers of this country.
    • Tells the story of the relationship between a father and his son. The story unfolds as Victor Joseph and another young man from the Indian reservation, Thomas Builds-the-Fire, set off to collect Arnold Josephs pick-up truck and ashes from Arizona after Arnold has died. The two men remember Victors father along the way, but their recollections are very different from each other. Victor learns many things about his father during his journey and, in the end, begins to understand, forgive, and grieve his loss.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, 1993

  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, 1993
    • “a thinly disguised memoir” (Alexie, xix).
  • The theme of alcoholism is heavily reflected in this book of short stories. Every story talks about alcoholism in some way In the first story, “Every Little Hurricane,” the weather symbolizes the effects of alcohol abuse and its destruction of the people in the community. “A Drug Called Tradition,” suggests that Indians should not accept alcoholism as a way of life and should replace it with a quest for their native identity.
  • Reservation Blues
  • The Ten Little Indians
  • The Indian Killer,1996
  • Flight,2007

Indian Killer, 1996

  • Indian Killer, 1996
    • Serial killer in Seattle scalps white men
    • Causes major racial tension amongst whites and Native Americans.
    • Theme of true identity appears through character who is part Indian and not seen as being “true to the race”.
  • Flight, 2007
    • Maybe argued as a YA text.
    • Teenager on the verge of committing a violent murder
    • Orphaned Indian boy who travels back and forth through time in a violent search for his true identity.
  • Despite his early praise of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, for example, Louis Owens finds that Alexie's fiction
  • too often simply reinforces all of the stereotypes desired by white readers: his bleakly absurd and aimless Indians are imploding in a passion of self-destructiveness and self-loathing; there is no family or community center toward which his characters ... might turn for coherence; and in the process of self-destruction the Indians provide Euramerican readers with pleasurable moments of dark humor or the titillation of bloodthirsty savagery. Above all, the non-Indian reader of Alexie's work is allowed to come away with a sense ... that no one is really to blame but the Indians, no matter how loudly the author shouts his anger. (79-80)
  • Considered from another critical angle, Alexie's artistry, I believe, may be seen as that of a consciously moral satirist rather than as a "cultural traitor." In fact, a close examination of Alexie's work to date shows that he uses the meliorative social and moral values inherent in irony and satire, as well as certain conventional character types (including the prejudicial stereotype of the "drunken Indian") as materials for constructing a realistic literary document for contemporary Indian survival.
  • Bird faults the novel, for example, for what she terms its "cinematic" narrative technique, whereby Alexie connects "scenes" via tawdry remnants of (white) popular culture, likening him to an "Indian Spike Lee" (47-48). She contends that, like the portrayals of African American individuals and culture in Lee's films, much of the structure and ethos of Reservation Blues depends on readers' knowledge of popular culture, including film, to be successful; this reliance, Bird argues, distorts, debases, and falsifies Indian culture and literature at the same time that it reinforces mainstream notions of Indian stereotypes.

Native American alcoholism is a controversial subject; many people (based on Hollywood films like the Comancheros, which starred John Wayne) still harbor stereotypes about "drunk Indians" being passed out on reservations without thinking about how the alcohol first got there and why some Indians started drinking. (43) Sherman Alexie openly addressed this issue:

  • Native American alcoholism is a controversial subject; many people (based on Hollywood films like the Comancheros, which starred John Wayne) still harbor stereotypes about "drunk Indians" being passed out on reservations without thinking about how the alcohol first got there and why some Indians started drinking. (43) Sherman Alexie openly addressed this issue:
  • When the book [The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven]
  • was first published, I was (and continue to be) vilified in
  • certain circles for my alcohol-soaked stories. Rereading
  • them, I suppose my critics have a point. Everybody in this
  • book [which the film is based on] is drunk or in love with
  • a drunk. And in writing about drunk Indians, I am dealing
  • with stereotypical material. But I can only respond with
  • the truth. In my family, counting parents, siblings, and
  • dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins, there are less than a
  • dozen who are currently sober and only a few who have
  • never drank. When I write about the destructive effects of
  • alcohol on Indians, I am not writing out of a literary stance
  • or a colonized mind's need to reinforce stereotypes. I am
  • writing autobiography. (44)
  • st


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