Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Sherman Alexie was born in Spokane, Washington, on October 7, 1966, the son of Sherman Joseph Alexie and Lillian Agnes (née Cox) Alexie. Alexie was hydrocephalic, necessitating brain surgery at the age of six months. The surgery was successful, but he had seizures throughout his youth which were likely related to the birth condition. The seizures, a long history of bed-wetting, and a voracious appetite for reading all conspired to separate him from his childhood peers.
Alexie frequently acknowledges both his Spokane and Coeur d’Alene tribal heritage, even as he notes that he is a “breed,” not a “blood,” being 13/16 (as the poem of the same name from The Business of Fancydancing describes) Indian. Alexie’s alcoholic father was absent most of Alexie’s youth, while his mother worked in the Wellpinit Trading Post and sold her handmade quilts. It may or may not be true that he had read all of the books in the Wellpinit school library by the end of the eighth grade. He attended Rearden High School, where he excelled academically and on the basketball court, earning a scholarship to Gonzaga University. After two years at Gonzaga, a drinking problem and a girlfriend at Washington State University caused him to transfer there, and he received his B.A. in English in 1991, benefiting there from the mentorship of one of his teachers, Alex Kuo.
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Alexie has made significant and original contributions in a number of related literary and visual genres, and his prolific output has given him well-earned status as a significant literary figure. Although his characters are generally Indians from the Pacific Northwest, his themes of loss, substance abuse, identity, and poverty are readily understood and appreciated by a wide cross section of writers and critics. Alexie shows every indication of continuing to produce significant work in poetry, short fiction, and screenwriting, meriting the attention which he handles so well.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
A self-described Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian who believes “Native American” is a “guilty white liberal term,” Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr., grew up in Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. His father, an alcoholic, spent little time at home, and his mother supported the family by selling hand-sewn quilts at the local trading post. Born hydrocephalic, Alexie spent most of his childhood at home voraciously reading books from the local library. He later attended high school outside the reservation. His academic achievements there secured him a place at Spokane’s Jesuit Gonzaga University in 1985. While there, he turned to alcohol as a means of coping with the pressure he felt to succeed. His goal to become a medical doctor was derailed by fainting spells in human anatomy class, and Alexie later transferred to Washington State University in 1987, where he began writing and then publishing his poetry and short stories. During a 1992 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, he wrote his award-winning The Business of Fancydancing and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. With this success came sobriety.
Based on his collection of short stories in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Alexie wrote and directed the award-winning Smoke Signals (1998), the first feature film ever made with an all-Native American cast and crew. Alexie, his child, and wife Diane, a member of the...
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Sherman Alexie is a Spokane-Coeur d’Alene Indian who grew up in Wellpinit, Washington, on a reservation. He acknowledges that his origin and upbringing affect everything that he does in his writing and otherwise.
Alexie’s father retired from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and his mother worked as a youth drug and alcohol counselor. The first of their five children to leave the reservation, Alexie attended Gonzaga University in Spokane for two years before entering Washington State University, where he studied creative writing with Alex Kuo. He was graduated in 1991.
Among the five books Alexie produced between 1992 and 1995, the seventy-seven-line free verse poem “Horses,” from Old Shirts and New Skins, typifies the passion, anger, and pain in some of his most effective poems. Focused on the slaughter of a thousand Spokane horses by General George Wright in 1858, the long lines echo obsessively: “1,000 ponies, the United States Cavalry stole 1,000 ponies/ from the Spokane Indians, shot 1,000 ponies & only 1 survived.” The poem is one of Alexie’s favorites at readings, where it acquires the incantatory power of the best oral poetry.
Although Alexie’s poems often have narrative and dramatic qualities, he is also adept at the short lyric, and his published work includes examples of the sestina and the...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr., was born on the Spokane Indian Reservation in northwest Washington, where he spent his childhood. When he was six months old, he underwent surgery to correct congenital hydrocephalus. Although the surgery put him at risk for mental retardation, Alexie suffered no ill effects and became an avid reader in his youth. He attended Reardan High School, twenty miles south of the reservation high school, excelling both in the classroom and on the basketball floor. He earned a scholarship to Gonzaga University and, after two years, transferred to Washington State University, from which he graduated in 1994 with a B.A. in American studies.
At Washington State University, Alexie was influenced by poet and English professor Alex Kuo. Soon after his graduation, he earned multiple poetry fellowships and began to publish collections of his poetry with Hanging Loose Press. Alexie claims that although he struggled with alcoholism throughout his college years, he quit drinking when he received his first acceptance letter from Hanging Loose Press and has been sober since 1990. Alexie began writing and publishing short fiction, then novels, in the mid-1990’s.
Alexie has continued to be creative, branching out in multiple genres in addition to fiction and poetry. He has written and directed films and has made many personal appearances before audiences throughout the world. In these appearances, he reads his poetry, short stories, and...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Born with hydrocephalus (water on the brain), Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr., grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. His father was a member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, his mother a Spokane. An operation when he was six months old placed him at risk of mental retardation, but Alexie survived to become a voracious reader early on. Feeling ostracized on the reservation, partly because of his intellectual pursuits, he transferred to the all-white high school in Reardan, twenty-two miles away, where he was a popular student and starred on the basketball team. After two years at Gonzaga University, Alexie transferred to Washington State University, where his initial interest in pursuing a medical career ended when he fainted in a human anatomy class. His poetry workshop teacher, Alex Kuo, encouraged his writing, and with the assistance of a Washington State Arts Commission fellowship in 1991, he finished his first books of poetry. In his review of The Business of Fancydancing for The New York Times Book Review, James Kincaid hailed Alexie as “one of the major lyric voices of our time.” Following this initial acclaim, Alexie gave up drinking, and he has spoken out against alcohol abuse, particularly on the reservation, both in his public appearances and in his subsequent writings.
Alexie married Diane Tomhave, of Hidatsa, Ho-Chunk, and Potawatomi heritage, in 1995. They would have two sons, Joseph (born 1997) and...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr., is a prolific writer, most of his work reflecting the nature of life on the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington, and the life of down-and-out American Indians in cities such as Seattle and Spokane. His poetry and short fiction are both marked by a robust humor, which ranges from slapstick to a dry self-deprecation; it is this characteristic tone that generally engages readers and stays with them after the book is finished.
Alexie was born on October 7, 1966, near Spokane, Washington, the son of Sherman Joseph and Lilian Agnes (Cox) Alexie. After graduating from high school in 1985, he attended Gonzaga University for two years, dropping out briefly. Once back in Spokane, he enrolled in Washington State University and graduated in 1991.
In 1991, Alexie also received his first high honor: He was named a Poetry Fellow of the Washington State Arts Commission. A year later, he received funds from the National Endowment for the Arts to help him complete his first published volume of poems, I Would Steal Horses, and a collection of poetry and short fiction, The Business of Fancydancing.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven marked the beginning of widespread public acclaim for Alexie, being reviewed by the American poet Reynolds Price in The...
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Sherman Alexie was born October 7, 1966, on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. Like the protagonist of Part-Time Indian, he was born with hydrocephalous (i.e., water on the brain) and was not expected to survive long. Even after he had an operation to correct the condition, doctors thought that Alexie would suffer mental deficiencies. Defying those predictions, however, Alexie learned to read by age three and developed a voracious intellectual curiosity that often made him the butt of jokes from his peers. Also like his protagonist Junior, Alexie chose to leave the Spokane Reservation to attend the more advanced and better supplied Reardan High School twenty miles away. He later attended both Gonzaga University and Washington State University. His own medical experiences might have influenced his desire to take premed classes, but his inability to actually stay awake when studying human anatomy quickly changed his mind. Alexie eventually turned to literature and found his true calling as a writer.
Alexie had published two volumes of poetry before his first collection of short stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, brought him international fame in 1993. The movie Smoke Signals (1998) was based on one of the short stories contained in this collection. Alexie’s first full-length novel, Reservations Blues, was published in 1995; and his second novel, Indian Killer, followed one year later.
Multitalented, Alexie has appeared on stage as both a singer and a stand-up comic. He also teaches writing and ethnic studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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IntroductionSherman Alexie read Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath at the age of five, despite the fact that doctors predicted he would be mentally challenged. Alexie was born with hydrocephalous (water on the brain) and underwent several brain surgeries, but he grew up to be exceedingly intelligent. As a child, he lived on a Native American reservation near Spokane, Washington, and ended up transferring to an all-white school when his peers bullied him for being interested in education. Alexie has used that experience in much of his writing, focusing on the harshness of reservation life. In 1993, an award-winning collection of short stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, was published. He has gone on to write sixteen novels as well as numerous short stories, poems, and screenplays.
- Alexie originally hoped to become a medical doctor, but he decided to change career goals because he kept fainting during human anatomy class.
- Alexie left college before completing his degree because he claimed he didn’t finish his U.S. History course. He said that once discussion of American Indians stopped in the first few weeks of the class, he left.
- Alexie competed in the World Poetry Bout Association in 1998 and won the World Heavyweight division. He became the first poet to successfully hold the title for four years in a row.
- Alexie occasionally performs stand-up comedy and was the featured performer at the Vancouver International Comedy Festival in 1999.
- Alexie collaborated with Chris Eyre, a fellow Native American, on the film Smoke Signals, based on a short story by Alexie. The film won a Christopher Award.
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Acknowledged by The New Yorker in June 1999, as one of the top writers of the upcoming twenty-first century, Sherman Alexie is a rising star in the skyline of American literature. A Native American writer who tells about "life on the rez," Alexie has written award-winning poetry, short stories, novels, and screenplays. Although Alexie does not write specifically for a young adult audience, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven has become popular among high-school English teachers; several of the stories center on young adults and their coming-of-age.
Alexie was born in October 1966, and he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. His father is Coeur d'Alene and his mother is Spokane. His grandmother, Etta Adams, was one of the spiritual leaders of the Spokane tribe.
In his childhood, Alexie faced serious difficulties; he was born with hydrocephalus (with an abnormal amount of cerebrospinal fluid) and underwent a brain operation when he was six months old that left such side effects as seizures and uncontrollable bed-wetting. In addition, he was a voracious reader from an early age, and his peers made fun of both his physical problems and his status as a bookworm. Although Alexie maintains that his parents did "a damn good job" of raising him, they also suffered from alcoholism. In order to get a better education, Alexie ultimately left for a predominantly white high school near the reservation...
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Poet, novelist, and screenwriter, Sherman Alexie has helped to reshape conventional images of Native Americans through his lyrical, yet blunt portrayals of life on the reservation. Born Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr. October 7, 1966, in the tiny town of Wellpinit on the Spokane Reservation in eastern Washington, to Sherman Joseph, a Coeur d'Alene Indian, and Lillian Agnes Cox, a Spokane Indian, Alexie almost did not make it out of childhood. At six-months-old, he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, which required surgery. Although doctors were not hopeful of his recovery, Alexie did recover, though he suffered from seizures during childhood. Alexie credits his difficult childhood with helping him to develop his imagination. He became a voracious reader and excelled at math. Later, and like many of his friends, he also developed a problem with alcohol. However, after a series of increasingly self-destructive episodes, Alexie quit drinking at age twenty-three.
Although he initially planned to pursue a career in medicine, Alexie changed his mind after taking a poetry workshop with Alex Kuo at Washington State University. With Kuo's encouragement, he began writing in earnest, and in 1991 when he graduated from WSU with a bachelor's degree in American Studies, he received a Washington State Arts Commission Poetry Fellowship. In 1992, he was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship and published two collections of poems, I Would Steal Horses...
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Alexie was born on October 7, 1966, in Spokane, Washington. A Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, Alexie grew up in Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. At birth, Alexie was diagnosed with hydrocephalus—an abnormal swelling of the brain and head due to excess fluid—and he underwent brain surgery at six months. The hydrocephalus gave Alexie an enlarged skull, which prompted merciless teasing by other children on the reservation. As a result, Alexie spent most of his time alone, reading in the Wellpinit School Library.
Alexie’s father, an alcoholic, was frequently absent from home, while Alexie’s mother worked as a clerk at the Wellpinit Trading Post and sewed quilts to support Alexie and his five siblings. Alexie transferred to a mostly white high school in Rearden—thirty miles off the reservation—to get the credits he needed to attend college. Alexie was accepted by the high school community and became captain of the basketball team and class president. He graduated with honors in 1985 and was awarded a scholarship to Gonzaga University in Spokane. However, the pressure to fit in led him to abuse alcohol for the first time in his life. In 1987, he dropped out and moved to Seattle, where he worked busing tables. The same year, he gave up drinking and enrolled at Washington State University, where he took a poetry class taught by Alex Kuo. After reading Alexie’s first poem, Kuo told Alexie that he should be a writer. Inspired,...
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