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Sherman Alexie

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Sherman Alexie Powered By Docstoc
					   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.
   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.
                               In regards to this title, “Ambiguity
   The Business of                  immediately appears in the title poem of
    Fancydancing, 1992.              the collection...Fancydancing is a
                                     traditional form of Native American
                                     dance that allows a single dancer to
     First Published Work           display his or her skill or cunning. At the
                                     same time it is a staged performance. The
     84 page collection of          fancydancer is sly, intelligent, and able to
                                     outwit his oppressors. The modifier
      poems and short                business suggest a colder economic
      stories                        reality, as if the fancydance itself has
                                     deteriorated from a high cultural art into
     Many read it as semi-          a cold, economic necessity, possibly
                                     commodified by Western culture. It
      autobiographical:              suggests that what was once and art has
                                     become a business and that the
      ranging from themes of         fancydancer, in this case the individual
                                     engaging in what should be a cherished,
      “drunken rage to               valued, cultural act, is using it for selfish
                                     aggrandizement, a kind of masquerade
      playful humor and              for money (Grassian 16).
      biting sarcasm, love
      poems and songs”
      (Grassian 15).
                                     Smoke Signals (Film), 1999.
   The Business of                      Based on a few short stories from
                                          The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight
    Fancydancing (film), 2002.            in Heaven.
   Seymour Polatkin is a                One theme recognized is the
    successful, gay Indian poet           forgiving of fathers, both biological
                                          and forefathers of this country.
    from Spokane who confronts            Tells the story of the relationship
    his past when he returns to           between a father and his son. The
    his childhood home on the             story unfolds as Victor Joseph and
    reservation to attend the             another young man from the
                                          Indian reservation, Thomas Builds-
    funeral of a dear friend.             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              Reservation Blues
    Fistfight in Heaven, 1993              The Ten Little Indians
       “a thinly disguised memoir”        The Indian Killer,1996
        (Alexie, xix).
                                           Flight,2007
   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.
   Indian Killer, 1996              Flight, 2007
     Serial killer in Seattle         Maybe argued as a YA
      scalps white men                  text.
     Causes major racial              Teenager on the verge
      tension amongst whites            of committing a violent
      and Native Americans.             murder
     Theme of true identity           Orphaned Indian boy
      appears through                   who travels back and
      character who is part             forth through time in a
      Indian and not seen as            violent search for his
      being “true to the race”.         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" stbeing 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)