The last twelve weeks or so, we have covered a lot of subjects in our American Indian Studies class. We have read many articles written by prominent American Indian authors, some interesting, some not so much. This week we began to read The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven written by Sherman Alexie. I was familiar with the book and the movie based off of it (Smoke Signals) because we had the option of reading and watching it last year in my English class. Last year I read about half of the book, but lost interest because it was not mandatory reading. However, I picked it up again for this class and this second time reading it I find myself not being able to put it down. Every chapter brings along another interesting story and Alexie is able to incorporate meaning beautifully. Because of how captivating the book is to me now, I wanted to find out more about the man who wrote it.
Sherman Alexie almost did not make it past infancy. He was born hydrocephalic meaning that he had water on the brain and needed surgery when he was six months old. At first, he wasn’t expected to survive and then he was expected to suffer from mental retardation. Those two things obviously never occurred but he was wracked with seizures instead. Later in life he developed a problem with alcohol which he was able to overcome. So, Alexie has faced many obstacle in his life and they show forth in his writing. Although it is a fictional novel, the ideas and themes behind it come from experiences he faced in his own life. He has won many awards for his novels and poems. Besides that he also writes screen plays such as the one for Smoke Signals which won two awards at the SunDance Film Festival. He also has taken turns as a director in the movie-making process. These are just some of the many talents Alexie has as well as being a talented public speaker and comedian.
But how does this all relate to what we are studying in class? Recently we have read articles about Indian scholars calling out other Indians to take the reigns in creative processing in the Indigenous literature. There have also been the calls for more scholarly articles among others written by American Indians about American Indians because they are the only ones who can truly write based on experience. Non-American Indians have to research culture while American Indians have lived it. Sherman Alexie is the answer to this call. Everything he has done; all of his work whether it be books, movies, etc. is boosting the American Indian sense of literature in the public eye. He is the example on which to go by for fellow American Indian scholars. His novel is so intriguing and so filled with emotion that it is a great read for anyone. I, myself cannot wait to finish it and see how everything ties up.