Friday, June 10, 2011

Sherman Alexie is my hero




This man is one of my heroes. I became of aware of Sherman Alexie many years ago when, as a reporter, I covered an event where he spoke to students of a BIA school. He was so authentic, and his words carried weight even when delivered in humor (which he excels at, by the way).



When some people put "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" on banned lists, I was shocked. The book is so compelling, so witty, so important that I couldn't understand any prejudice blinding someone to its value. But then I am often shocked by what people wish to ban.



This semi-autobiographical YA novel never shirks from the horrors of living in poverty and abuse but tells the story with the resilient spirit and humor that Alexie brings to his work. For many hurt kids, on and off reservations, the book is a life raft, a beacon of hope showing a path to a better future.



A friend sent me a link to an article Alexie wrote for The Wall Street Journal that is a must-read for anybody, especially writers. Alexie says books were the most loving and trustworthy things in his life as a child. He read everything from classics to horror and found out that reading about monstrous things could teach him how to battle real monsters in his life.


This quote stuns me: "I write in blood because I remember what it feels like to bleed."


Please, please, read the whole article. You owe it to yourself and your readers.


*

P.S. I continue to post sporadically whilst in process of moving and turning my entire life upside down. *grins and groans*


42 comments:

Jan Morrison said...

Hi Tricia - I will go to and read this article for sure. I too am gob-smacked by the things that end up on these lists - however sometimes, even often, it backfires and good books get read by rebellious types like me! ;)
Glad you are hanging on to your sanity through the changes.
Jan Morrison

The Golden Eagle said...

I recently read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian--while I can't say it's one of my favorite books, I'm amazed it was banned.

I'll have to read that article!

Donna said...

Great quote. Thanks, Tricia. I, too, am an admirer of Sherman Alexie and look forward to seeing what he has to say in The Wall Street Journal. I love his memoir and give it to kids of a certain age on my book list. I do check with their parents first since the book has sexual content. (No one has objected yet.)

Ara Burklund said...

I was so proud of him for writing circles around Meghan what's-her-name in response to her scathing article. He's my hero, too!!! : )

Yat-Yee said...

Good to have a good article in WSJ; I was starting to lost faith after the Tiger Mother and YA-is-too-dark pieces.

I enjoyed part time Indian a lot and I'm not terribly surprised any more by what counts for objectionable any more.

Glad to see you back here. *grins back*

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Jan: Gob-smacked is my response, too, but he sure knows how to set it straight.
Thank you for your comment on my previous post. I responded there, but have to tell you those were beautiful words.

GoldenEagle: That article is so well-written--both erudite and heart-felt.

Donna: I'm most pleased that you give it as gifts, and no one objected. That makes me smile.

Ara: Yes! Precisely.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Yat-Yee: *waves* I miss you and most likely won't be around much for the next month, either.
But I couldn't let something like this pass me by. I hope that article reaches many people.

Yat-Yee said...

Good to be back here, incoherent and all. Should have checked my earlier comment before I posted. Hope your summer is rich!

Genie of the Shell said...

I love Sherman Alexie!! This is all amazing. I need to read more of his books.

Laraine Eddington said...

I love to read Sherman Alexie. In a similar vein, I think you would enjoy "The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint" by a fellow northern Arizonan, Brady Udall. Thanks for the link.

Stephanie Thornton said...

What a wonderful quote attesting to the power of books.

Good luck with the upside-down life!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Genie: I think it's the edge of dark humor and inventiveness in his writing that engages me.

Laraine: I'll check that out. Haven't read any of his. Thanks.

Stephanie: It's an amazing quote. And yeah, I'm a little dizzy and ditsy at the moment. :)

Lydia K said...

I read that article from start to finish. Well said. I want to buy his book now!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I haven't read his book yet (my 11 yo was but I accidentally returned it to the library before he was finished it), but I saw Sherman speak at the LA SWCBWI conference last year. He's a great speaker, and I'm glad he wrote that article (which I did read). :D

Thanks for sharing it with us, Tricia.

Solvang Sherrie said...

That was a fabulous article. He is an amazing writer, an amazing speaker, and totally deserving of the title, hero.

storyqueen said...

My first experience with Sherman Alexie was with his poetry.

So powerful.

I loved Part-Time Indian. It was everything you could want in a book.

He=awesome.

Shelley

Wen Baragrey said...

This. Exactly this: "He read everything from classics to horror and found out that reading about monstrous things could teach him how to battle real monsters in his life."

Anne Gallagher said...

Thanks for this article link. I read some of his poetry when I was in college and was wowed by the power of his words. I haven't gotten to read 'Part-Time Indian' yet but it's on my list.

Hope your move is going well!

Jemi Fraser said...

I've heard of this author and book before - but only in a positive way. I hadn't realized the book had been banned.

Book banning drives me nuts! Some of my absolute favourites have been banned. I don't get why people are afraid of truth - we need it to learn from it.

Off to read the article ...

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Lydia: Yay!

Stina: He is such an amazing speaker and writer (of fiction, nonfiction and poetry)!

Sherrie: Yes!

Shelley: I knew we'd agree. I'm still stunned when he gets attacked.

Wen: Yes, and that's the heart of the matter. When people complain that YA is too dark, they're pretending monsters don't exist. They do, and these books help readers find resilience.

Anne: His power lies in words, so deeply felt and well chosen.

Jemi: Oh, yes, he's been on the banned list, but this week there was a firestorm over another article in WSJ that complained YA, including his work, was too dark for kids. I strongly disagree.

Wen Baragrey said...

Exactly, Tricia! One thing I've learned in life is that you don't get rid of darkness by ignoring it, you deal with it by shining a light so you can see it clearly and for what it is.

The best example I can think of is child abuse. Oh sure, there's as much of it around now as there ever was but if you are a victim you have options now you never had when I was a kid because back then, it was a "don't tell" world.

Knowledge and awareness may not have banished that monster, yet, but it has made it very uncomfortable for the abusers and given survivors a voice and somewhere to turn when there never used to be. How did that happen? Through FICTION! Stories changed people's perception and things improved, and more stories will keep improving it.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Wen: The power of fiction is lost on some people who think, oh it's just made-up stories. But, no, the best fiction is based on authentic human experience and all that comes with it.
When it's put in another context, like a fantasy world, for instance, it gives those stripped of power a chance to imagine a world where they are in control again, where they can journey with a protagonist and find a way to prevail in tough situations. For abused kids, this is lifesaving.
With excellent authors, like Alexie, it also promotes learning to think, to question, to sort out the complexities of life.

Sarah Laurence said...

Thanks for flagging that article. I had read the original WSJ YA article but not his response. His final sentence was fabulous and his YA novel is one of my favorites. Good luck with your move!

kathleen duey said...

Sherman is a rare and lovely human being. His books are honest and true and they spring from the kind of childhood that left him with scars and a strong, deep, heart. I love his books.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

SarahL: Thanks, Sarah. And, yeah, that last sentence is unforgettable.

Kathleen: Thank you so much for stopping by. He is an amazing man. And it is precisely that strong heart that comes through to me in his writing.

MG Higgins said...

Sherman Alexie is such an effortless writer. I imagine him writing his novels in a week or two, flowing out like a final draft. He's at the top my author-I'd-most-like-to-be list.

Bish Denham said...

I'm headed over there now! Thanks Tricia. I LOVED The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and cannot for the life of me figure out why it was banned!

Idiots.

paulgreci said...

I heard Sherman Alexie speak at a conference at a few years ago. I love his writing!!

Robyn Campbell said...

Clicking over to read. I love his writing. What an awesome quote.

You been tagged. I know stuff is going on in your life, so choose to accept it or now. <3 you. Mwa ha ha ha

Robyn Campbell said...

I meant or not. Sheesh

Suzanne Casamento said...

Ooo! You always post the best stuff. I'm off to read the article. :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Melissa: That's awesome to aspire to be like him.

Bish: Yes, there is no understanding that. But his defense is so eloquent, I hope it gets widely read.

Paul: He's amazing, to be sure.

Robyn: Isn't that quote amazing? And thank you for the tag and fine words on your blog. *blushes*

Suzanne: :D Hope you like it as much as I did.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Such a powerful article. So well said. Speaks to the heart of why we need books like Alexie's. So much truth and heart.

Good luck with the moving ;)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hey there, Carolina! He always writes with power--that's why we love him, right? And thanks, I need all the luck I can get about now. ;)

Phoenix said...

"I write in blood because I remember what it feels like to bleed."

WOW! I am off to check out his article, if your awesome review of his work didn't make me want to before (which it did) that quote sealed the deal! I'll add his book to my next Amazon batch.

Thanks for posting this Tricia! I hope in the midst of all the chaos in your life you're remembering to breathe...

Claire Dawn said...

I'm a sop. I read this article the day it came out and bawled. I'm so tired of silly adults.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Tracy: *breathing* Thank you for reminding me! Actually, I'm going for a Pilates session this morning, which will help. And I hope you enjoy the article and the book!

Claire: Isn't it moving??? He always goes deep.

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks for the reminder of this book--it's oe I keep meaning to put into my reading rotation. I love powerful stories, and think banning them is just nonsense.

Hugs and sending you stress-free vibes as you move!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Hope the moving is going well and that you come back soon. I have exciting mermaid news and wanted you to be one of the first to know. :)

xo

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Exciting mermaid news??? Exciting mermaid news?????? Oh, I have to track you down right now.

kathleen duey said...

Sherman is a hero of mine, too....and one of the nicest people on the planet.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I've been wanting to read this for ages. I adore Native American culture.