The Unpaved Path for Sherman Alexie

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Sherman Alexie was born on October 7th, 1966 on an Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. He is a member of the Spokane tribe which is a major influence on his work and his first hand experiences has made him a notable author. In his early life, he was operated on to treat hydrocephalus that he was born with and had a slim chance of survival. However, he did not let this condition bring him down, “Though he lived through the experience, he was plagued with seizures as a child and spent most of his childhood reading.” (Poetry Foundation). He then found great success throughout school leading to his attendance at Jesuit Gonzaga University. The success at Jesuit Gonzaga became short lived, “...he had a successful academic career but began to abuse alcohol.” (Poetry Foundation). He then transferred schools and later became sober.

In fact, Alexie was robbed on his birthday. That is where he was at his lowest and began to focus heavily on school at Washington State. When a turn of motivation in what he wanted to be, “he signed up for a poetry class, hoping to write sonnets to impress girls. He had no idea that his professor, Alex Kuo, would radically rechart the path of his life.” (Cline). Alexie’s professor made him read about poems from Native Americans, Alexie had these experiences that were written about and wrote about them himself. From there, Alexie began to write legitimate poems about Native American life and later shifted focus to short stories and fiction.

Growing up on an Indian Reservation gave Sherman Alexie has seen what most people have not have. He tells what it is really like on an Indian Reserve and the problems Native Americans face. Poverty is the most prevalent issue and Alexie’s stories have a sad tone and make readers feel sympathetic at times due to the fact that Native Americans do not live the best lives. “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” is a short story that Alexie wrote. It is about a Native American man named Victor who had just been informed that his father died. Victor then has to go to Arizona, which is a struggle financially, but he goes with the help of his friend Thomas.

I asked Victor, “How did you feel when you learned your father died and what was your first course of action?” He replied, “Well, my father and I were quite distant but I knew I had to go to Phoenix because he was being cremated. But it immediately struck me that I needed money to fly to Phoenix ,I had just lost my job too, and money is very tight for everyone on the Reservation. Luckily the Tribal Council can help me with situations like this.” “How much did the council help?” I replied. “I was shocked when I heard the amount they offered to give, It did not help much at all. However, my long time friend Thomas knew I was in need and offered to help me with the rest of the money. He also went on the trip with me.” Why did he help you?” Victor said, “Thomas Builds-the-Fire is one of my oldest friends, we grew up together but grew apart as time moved on, he is a storyteller that nobody really listens to. He knew about my father before I even told him, I feel bad but I felt embarrassed talking to him in front of everybody. He really helped me out though, I am very appreciative and now I cherish the stories he told and rekindled our friendship, he taught me so much about myself.” “What a great story.” I said,Victor told me about the things that go on in Indian Reservations and the importance of relationships.

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The Unpaved Path for Sherman Alexie. (2021, Feb 25). Retrieved December 1, 2023 , from

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