Sherman Alexie, a Professional User of the Truth

Saturday, November 9, 2013, I went to go see Sherman Alexie speak at Francis Parker High School as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. He is an other of the Spokane Indian tribe. He is an accomplished writer, but he is surprisingly known for his controversy. The book that he came partially to talk about (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian) is the second most banned book due to graphic language and inappropriate subjects.

The book talks about a lot of things a lot of people would rather not deal with, such as sexual references and foul language. I feel this is a common social reaction to things; you can see every time an immigrant group enters America, there are problems. In my United States history class, I have recently read about the entering of Germans and Irish into America. The Americans were not happy at all, because they possessed different religious beliefs, and felt these foreigners would bring in poisonous ideals and infect their children’s upbringings. These foreigners mean no harm; they want better lives in the land of the free. Sherman Alexie’s book acts as a foreign source and mindset that parents are uncomfortable with. Though he intends to only provide pleasure to readers and reveal a different insight on life, parents want to ban it. (just like people wanted to deport foreigners)

As Alexie lectured, he went on to talk about what it was like being Native American and about leaving the reservation for the better. He talked about how the reservation has assimilated into the Indian culture; it initially began as a refuge for Indians when they were being relocated by the government (think Andrew Jackson and his Relocation Act). Despite that, the Indians have allowed it to become their “permanent” home.

I thought it was interesting to hear his perspective on things, and how he presented things with both humor and austerity. His views as an Indian were similar to my own views of being of a different culture. People are often unsure of what to call you. They think you’re supposed act a certain way, and often want to try to relate to you, or want to talk and say “Hey I had an Indian friend once!”. There are major misconceptions about every race, but I feel there are the most about Native Americans. My American Literature teacher once said “Indians are the only race that people expect to be sort of fossilized and remain unchanged over time”, which means that most people think Indians are all “red” people who live in tribes, eat corn, are stoic, have tribal tattoos, etc.

I personally really enjoyed seeing Mr.Alexie talk. He kept everything very real. He uses what I’d like to call “intellectual profanity” to get his points across. He is very humorous, yet very respectful. I would recommend anybody to venture to read his marvelous books, but one needs to have an free and constantly thinking mind; one that is willing try something new and maybe have a taste of their own bad medicine.

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2 thoughts on “Sherman Alexie, a Professional User of the Truth

  1. This was great! I like how you blatantly stated that America has tendencies to try and get rid of foreign groups, and I agree with you on the fact that sometimes people try and look the other way when they do something wrong. Banning a book is not going to make the story less real, and being a personal fan of Alexie’s poetry, I think that new perspectives and unheard voices are a good thing, contrary to what parents may think.

  2. Your very first comparison of the banning of books and promoted deportation of foreigners was interesting, as it wouldn’t be a relationship I would have pieced together. However, now that it has been brought up, I think the loss of exposure to both books would deprive us from the morals or life lessons in the stories. If we had prevented the German migration to America during the 19th century, our military would have been less advanced from the lack of new riffles and American culture would have to survive without the Christmas Tree.

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