Key Aspects in Sherman Alexie's Works with Special Reference to his Life

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2012

19 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Key Aspects in Alexie’s Novels and Short Stories
2.1 Alcoholism and Drug-Abuse
2.2 Stereotypes

3. Conclusion

4. Bibliography

1. Introduction

American Indian literature grew out of an oral tradition passed on from one generation to the next. By the late eighteenth century these oral accounts of Indians’ stories were being recorded or translated by interested white people. At this time Indians were also beginning to write down their own stories in the English language. By the twentieth century creativity in the English language became a well-established form of their literary communication. During the same time the works of American Indian authors got a more individualistic tone.[1] One of those individualist is the Native American Sherman Alexie.

Sherman Alexie was born on October 7, 1966. Alexie grew up in the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wahshington. The Spokane are one out of very many tribes having their roots in Washington.[2] The Spokanes are also called “Chrildren of the Sun”, which derives from their own tribal name “Spukanee” which translated means “Children of the Sun”.[3] The Spokane Reservation was established in 1881. The reservations has undergone changes like battles over a dam or disputes over land bordes.[4] It does still exist today but it is also a place for tourists now. Today, the Spokane Indian Reservation is approximately 159,000 acres in size. Tribal membership as of April 2011 is 2708, strong and growing. As in the past, national resources are protected by the Spokane Indians.[5]

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten[6]

He was born with hydrocepahlus and underwent surgery when he was 6 years old. His father has lost both his parents at the age of 7 and later became an alcoholic who often left the house for days at a time. "My father was always depressed. When he was home and sober, he was mostly in his room. But he disappeared on drinking binges. You always knew they were coming: he was never violent, but short-tempered. It wasn't a violent house, but a violent reservation."[7] To support her six children, Alexie's mother, Lillian, sewed quilts and worked as a clerk at the Wellpinit Trading Post.

Spending long periods in hospital, Alexie learned to read at the age of three.[8] Alexie's life at the reservation school was also challenging because he was constantly teased by other kids on the reservation. They called him "The Globe" because he had a large head due to the hydrocephalus. It also didn't help that he had to wear government-issued glasses.[9] Later he changed school and attended a non-reservation school because he thought he would get the chance for a better degree. "I could reach across boundaries and find things that joined us together: books and basketball."[10]

In his semi-autobiographical young adult book, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian“, Alexie describes some of his school problems and how a Native Indian had to deal with prejudices. „As Alexie himself said during an interview, he was once labeled an apple, red from the outside, white from the inside.“[11] Apart from leaving the reservation school he also dreamt of leaving the reservation. During college time Alexie started drinking but stopped it at the age of 23 when his first poetry book was accepted for publication. “I had the feeling I was going to be successful, and I didn't want to be another disappointing Indian. The mess my father was, it broke my heart. I didn't want to break an Indian kid's heart."[12]

His first novel „Reservation Blues“ was published in 1995.

Nowadays Alexie lives in Seattle, Washington together with his Native American wife and his two sons. He is a famous Native American poet, autohor, screenwriter and filmmaker.He sold milliions of copies of his books and won several awards for his noves like the “Boston-Globe-Horn Book Award” for the best fiction novel of 2008 in young adult literature[13] or the “National Book Award for Young Peoples’ Literature” in 2007[14] both for his novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”. His literature is very important for Native American literature courses in the United States and in the world. Alexie is also read in colleges and universities all across the USA.

Alexie is a fiction author. Apart from poems and films he has written several novels. Here is an short overview:

- 1993: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (Collection of Short Stories)
- 1995: Reservation Blues (Novel)
- 1996: Indian Killer (Novel)
- 2000: The Toughest Indian in the World (Collection of Short Stories)
- 2003: Ten Little Indians (Collection of Short Stories)
- 2007: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Autobiographic novel)
- 2007: Flight (Novel)
- 2009: War Dances (Novel)

[15] As a Native American himself, his novels, films, and collections of short stories deal with a variety of topics he experienced in the reservation like alcoholism, poverty, stereotypes, friends, death or family problems. Having grown up in the 60’s und 70’s in the reservation Alexie has made lots of experiences on many, if not all topics he writes about.

For this paper I mainly had a look at three of Alexie’s works, namely the novels “Reservation Blues” and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” as well as his collection of short stories “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”. Reading these novels and stories I realized that they have much in common. In all those works the same problems can be found as well as the characters reappear.[16]

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


[1] Cf. Momaday, Natachee Scott. American Indian Authors. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976. Print. 1.

[2] Cf. ibid. 151.

[3] Cf. Ruby, Robert H., and John A. Brown. 1970. The Spokane Indians, Children of the Sun. Civilization of the American Indian series. 1st ed. Vol. 104. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, Print. 8.

[4] Cf. Ortiz, Erick. “Sherman Alexie and the New Native American Identity.“ 19 Sep. 2012. 3.

[5] Cf. (24.09.2012)

[6] Momaday 146-47.

[7] (23.09.2012)

[8] Cf. Ibid.

[9] Cf. Cline, Lynn. “About Sherman Alexie“. Ploughshares 26 (4): 197. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 4.

[10] (23.09.2012)

[11] Ortiz 14.

[12] (23.09.2012)

[13] Cf. (23.09.2012)

[14] Cf. (23.09.2012)

[15] Alexie. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. 63.

[16] This graphic is taken from Alexie’s novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian“ (63). Compared The Lone Texas Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” to “you do also find the character Tonto in the diary.

Excerpt out of 19 pages


Key Aspects in Sherman Alexie's Works with Special Reference to his Life
University of Paderborn  (Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
Native American Literature
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Sherman Alexie, Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Smoke Signals, Reservation Blues, drug-abuse, alcoholism, stereotyes, prejudices, Native American literature, indians, American Indians, Spokane Reservation, Children of the Sun
Quote paper
Melissa Naase (Author), 2012, Key Aspects in Sherman Alexie's Works with Special Reference to his Life, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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