Sherman J. Alexie, Jr. Who?
One of my summer buddies was given Sherman Alexie’s Ten Little Indians as a departing gift from her roommate. My friend spoke highly of the book, so I flipped through it and gave it back, never bothering to make a mental note. Nothing against my friend, I just had other things on my mind (I guess). Today in class, guess whose name showed up again? Sherman Alexie! We spent a little time reading his biography, but no where in that particular copy did I see mention of Ten Little Indians. Check for yourself. But I knew he had to be the same guy. Sadly, I only made my book/author connection because I don’t know any Native American authors and I just assumed there weren’t many.
My question to you, my faithful blog readers (if such a thing exists here), is can you name the last book you read by a Native American author? It is obvious they exist, but not only can I not name one author off the top of my head, but I don’t believe I’ve read any pieces (that I can remember) by said authors. Pardon my ignorance and shame.
Luckily, one of my first reading assignments of the semester is Sherman Alexie’s young adult work, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I haven’t purchased it yet though—because I don’t feel like standing in those ridiculous campus bookstore lines today. Instead, what I do have is a copy of my other assigned reading, Alexie’s New York Times short story “What You Pawn I Will Redeem.” If you’re really interested, you know you can always read the provided excerpt:
One day you have a home and the next you don’t, but I’m not going to tell you my particular reasons for being homeless, because it’s my secret story, and Indians have to work hard to keep secrets from hungry white folks.
I’m a Spokane Indian boy, an Interior Salish, and my people have lived within a hundred-mile radius of Spokane, Washington, for at least ten thousand years. I grew up in Spokane, moved to Seattle twenty-three years ago for college, flunked out after two semesters, worked various blue- and bluer-collar jobs, married two or three times, fathered two or three kids, and then went crazy. Of course, crazy is not the official definition of my mental problem, but I don’t think asocial disorder fits it, either, because that makes me sound like I’m a serial killer or something. I’ve never hurt another human being, or, at least, not physically. I’ve broken a few hearts in my time, but we’ve all done that, so I’m nothing special in that regard. I’m a boring heartbreaker, too. I never dated or married more than one woman at a time. I didn’t break hearts into pieces overnight. I broke them slowly and carefully. And I didn’t set any land-speed records running out the door. Piece by piece, I disappeared. I’ve been disappearing ever since.
I’ve been homeless for six years now. If there’s such a thing as an effective homeless man, then I suppose I’m effective. Being homeless is probably the only thing I’ve ever been good at. I know where to get the best free food. I’ve made friends with restaurant and convenience-store managers who let me use their bathrooms. And I don’t mean the public bathrooms, either. I mean the employees’ bathrooms, the clean ones hidden behind the kitchen or the pantry or the cooler. I know it sounds strange to be proud of this, but it means a lot to me, being trustworthy enough to piss in somebody else’s clean bathroom. Maybe you don’t understand the value of a clean bathroom, but I do. (Read more . . . )
I’m always good for an excerpt, huh?
So, this semester and next (due to unfulfilled English requirements) I will not be able to take any Africana courses. No black literature for me. How unfortunate. I will have the opportunity to read 19th and early 20th century American literature with minor black characters though. Close enough, right? Yeah. I’m giving myself the side-eye right now too. I’m also taking a Shakespeare course that I’m currently mumbling about under my breath. Might not be so bad though. I’ll keep ya’ll posted. Maybe we can all learn something.
Happy reading, ya’ll!