Author Sherman Alexie

Author Sherman Alexie broke into the literary scene in the mid-’90s with “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” and other stories about growing up on a reservation. Since then, he hasn’t shied away from sensitive topics like alcoholism and abuse among Native Americans. His book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” was on the list of Top 10 most frequently challenged books in America. Alexie joins Forum to talk about his book “Blasphemy,” a collection of 15 new stories and 15 old favorites covering topics from donkey basketball to wind turbines.

Sherman Alexie, author of "Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories;" his other works include "Reservation Blues," "Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" and "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven"

  • Rene

    My students at June Jordan School for Equity just finished reading your story “The Search Engine” from Ten Little Indians. They loved it, as did I, for the liberating postmodern argument that cultural authenticity is a myth shaped by stereotypes, (at least most of them got it). However, we were all puzzled as to the title. Why is it called “The Search Engine”? Is it to juxtapose this modern phenomenon with stereotypical notions of Indians? Does Corliss herself, and her tribal network serve as a search engine in finding out truths about cultural identity? Please answer so I can play this interview for my students 🙂

  • OldVet

    These are general comments more about the culture of Indians than Sherman Alexie but I hope these issues can be discussed.
    …. This was called the New World. Not because it was… the Indians have lore that goes back 35,000 years….. it was just kept like new.
    and I have had the opportunity to work with Northwest Indians and the fight to keep the salmon with Wild Salmon Nation. We used to fight the Aluminum companies as they sucked the power out of the Columbia… sorry salmon… sorry you Warm Springs, Yakima and Nez Pierce. Today it is Apple, Google and Facebook wanting to suck the life out of the river for cheap electricity for their server farms.
    I have never felt grief so deeply as to be with some tribal eleders as we spoke of the salmon.
    Can you imagine being a devout Christian and have the daily culture take a chain saw to a crucifix. Much worse to see what industry does to the four leggeds, the tree people, and the fish. And we wonder why Indians drink.
    I honor anyone who helps wake America up the the Original People’s way.

  • Maida B.

    I went to Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco from 1985-1989, and we had donkey basketball each of my four years there. I don’t even think it was a fundraiser – just seemed like a tradition that hadn’t yet been questioned at that time. So donkey basketball isn’t so “small town” after all!

  • RA

    For the first 10 minutes i thought this guy sounded interesting and I wanted to check out his work.

    Then the “joke” about how he’s from occupied people and that’s why “they” (Native Americans) don’t have control over how their story is told (this about esquire article).

    Yeah… because you know… white people have veto power on all published works about white people. They get previewed on White Face Book and there’s a veto button as well as rigorous discussion about how “the white story” is told before anything is released to world.

    And it looks like it’s down-hill from there into full racial grievance mode.

    Thanks, but no thanks.

    • RA

      ~ 10:49 (AM) “In the Republican thesaurus ‘Socialist’ now means ‘black guy’.”
      (about Obama and how he’s centrist but is still called a socialist)

      Ha ha! so funny. Yeah… Republicans are racists and opposition to Obama is because he’s black! thanks.

      ‘Oooh and “aborigine” sounds like an electronica band.’ (~10:57AM)

      Where did you people find this guy ? For a sometimes comedian he’s surprisingly humorless and thin skinned. (uh oh. is “thin skinned” a racial term. i hope not lest he take offense)

      • Jade Cichy

        Where did they find this famous, award-winning writer? Really? What are you talking about?

  • Tim Wright

    Am I an Indian???? Sherman, my birth father was Chickasaw and my birth mother was German but I was adopted as a baby by a white family. At 20 I met my Chickasaw grandmother and had a wonderful relationship with her for 4 years before she died. She taught me about my ancestors, native customs and language, and her days growing up in Oklahoma. Can I be Indian now??

  • Jeff

    Smoke Signals is one of the most personally important movies I’ve seen. I was finally able to begin to understand and forgive my dad.

  • Douglas Kearns

    I thought India did not exist when the Europeans landed in the America’s. I heard that the term “Indian” was a Spanish language derivative as “in Dia” ( in God). Any thoughts?

  • Mark

    Did you hear Ann Coulter’s recent comment on ABC that Indians are “immigrants” because “they came from another continent”. Is “immigrant” a valid description?

  • Finn

    I’m wondering about the role of veterans in Native communities, specifically the high regard for veterans in relation to youth who are joining the US military to carry on the warrior tradition. What’s your take on the potential contradiction in continuing the warrior tradition by joining a historical enemy of many Native communities?

  • Susan

    Are you familiar with the new documentary “Smokin’ Fish” about Tlingit enterpreneur Cory Mann? Aired recently on PBS and is now making the film festival rounds. Cory reminds me so much of the character in “Smoke Signals”, the young Indian who lived with (and looked exactly like) his grandmother.

  • Richard Howell

    In Canada the term First Nation is is used. Compare treatment of First Nation people in the US and Canada.

  • David Fyhrie

    I looked at the Cleveland Indians logo and it does, indeed, look like an old “Sambo” image.

    One website suggests replacing “Chief Wahoo” with an image of a Sikh in order to retain the name “Cleveland Indians.”

  • maradonkey

    I’m very interested
    in your take on the relationship of ‘nature’
    within the Indian community v. the non-Indian community. I have heard you comment upon this before in a very entertaining and illuminating
    fashion…and would love to hear more. Thank you!! Mara 🙂

  • Terry Grant

    I found out first hand about the second-class ( or 3rd class) treatment of Indians in Nevada, north of Reno at the Pyramid Lake res. I went up there 4 years ago to try to register Indians, and discovered young people there who feel like they live in an occupied nation, and don’t see any link to the USA. This is because of the federal control (both in law enforcement and judges) which doesn’t provide any justice to these tribes. In that depressed state, is it any wonder there is so much Alcoholism.

  • Gabriela Melano, Ed.D.

    Listened to the interview this morning while driving– and ab-so-lu-te-ly enjoyed it. We need more creative souls in the “diversity and inclusion” field– which, unfortunately, it is frequently practiced as “diversity and exclusion”. Thank you for your work.

    Gabriela Melano, Ed.D.

  • It’s refreshing to hear Mr. Alexie speak his mind on American/ Native American Identity, because I feel that many American’s, of all persuasions (even immigrants), don’t really see or understand, or hear the story of the original peoples. I feel the “popular American culture” today, which seems to be devoid of any true multicultural and respectful rightful representation, could use a dose of true humility.

  • Merrilee

    I’m listening to this program right now and what a delight to hear someone so honest and unafraid to say truth. I went to Sequoia High School in Redwood City and learned about the Cherokees through going there, but agree that the mascot needed to be changed a few years back. I wonder if there will ever be a time when we face our historical reality, have a truth and reconciliation process with ‘Native Americans,’ ‘African Americans,’ ‘Chinese and Japanese Americans.” What we have done is despicable but I confess to not know what to do to rectify it – but wish we could start.

  • Jack Duggan

    That sounded like a difficult interview. Alexie being a standup comic and just being contrary was hard to keep up with, but an excellent show nonetheless. I caught bits and pieces driving, so I’ve just listened to the whole show on the web. I bought Absolutely True Diary yesterday and I’m 3/4s through it. Thanks for having Alexie as a guest and reminding us what a really good author he is. He is always challenging and his talk of current day colonialism was particularly challenging. Thanks again.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor