Dawn’s summary bibliography discusses 5 interviews with Sherman Alexie. Clear and concise. Just what I’m looking for.
December 3, 2012
Sherman Alexie Interview Bibliography
Blewster, Kelly. “Tribal Visions.” Conversations with Sherman Alexie. By Nancy J. Peterson. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2009. Print.
This interview is from 1999. Alexie is thirty-two and has become more famous due to a critically acclaimed film adaptation of one of his short-story collections. Alexie believes that the majority of his reading audience is white and purposely uses humor during his public appearances and in his novels to make white people uncomfortable. At one point in this particular interview, he quips, “Take any brown person, from Bryant Gumbel to Colin Powell to the Chicano guy working at the restaurant—they’ve all wanted to kill a white person. All of us, I guarantee you.” Alexie has not let the acclaim quell his desire to show a certain truth that a lot of Americans would rather gloss over. Alexie’s novel, Indian Killer, has just been published. The book is full of bumbling, white characters and Alexie maintains that everything the white characters say in the novel (some if it appallingly ignorant) is taken from real-life interactions he’s had with white people. Indian Killer is somewhat of an angry novel and a departure from Alexie’s usual use of humor. In Alexie’s eyes, “[…] people can’t run as fast when they’re laughing. […] when you make them laugh, they listen to you. That’s how I get people to listen to me now. If I were saying the things I’m saying without a sense of humor, people would turn off right away. […] I’m saying very aggressive, controversial things, I suppose, about race and gender and sexuality. […] but if you say it funny, people listen.”
Chapel, Jessica. “American Literature: Interview with Sherman Alexie.” Conversations with Sherman Alexie. By Nancy J. Peterson. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2009. Print.
This interview is from 2000. In the interview, Alexie discusses the shift in location and subject matter from his early work to his most recent volume of short stories. Alexie started off focusing on reservation life and familial relationships and has shifted to a more urban environment in his work. According to Alexie about sixty percent of Indians live in urban areas and he got tired of writing about life on the reservation because he’s spent most of his adult life living in an urban area and it feel inauthentic to pretend that he’s “just a Rez boy.” In keeping with his unflinching honesty, Alexie flat out calls for a “voluntary moratorium” on non-Indians writing about Indians “until we’ve established our voice […]. If non-Indians stop writing about us they’ll have to publish us instead.” He goes on discuss the politics of identity for Indians, saying “The search for immigrant identity is much different than the search for indigenous identity, so I suppose if you’re indigenous to a place and you’re still searching for your identity, that’s pretty ironic.”
Davis, Tanita, and Sarah Stevenson. “Sherman Alexie. Conversations with Sherman Alexie. By Nancy J. Peterson. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2009. Print.
This interview is from 2007. This interview traces the similarities between Arnold Spirit, Jr., the protagonist of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, and Alexie himself. Alexie admits that Junior is a version of himself. Alexie discusses how he didn’t really censor himself just because he was writing YA (young adult) novels. He emphasizes that on the one hand, he wanted Diary to be a “funny, moving tale,” but also that he wants his audience to realize that Arnold, by leaving the reservation, “is escaping a slow-motion death trap.” Arnold is largely autobiographical and he wants readers to understand that his own success is due to the fact that he left the reservation. Alexie goes on to discuss how helpful it was to have an African-American editor who grew up in a predominantly white area. They were able to have really honest conversations about race that he admits would have been potentially impossible to have with a white editor.
Harris, Timothy. “Seriously Sherman: Seattle’s Favorite Pissed Off Poet Talks about Truth, Terror, Tradition, and What’s So Great about America Anyway?” Conversations with Sherman Alexie. By Nancy J. Peterson. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2009. Print.
This interview is from 2003. Harris immediately dives into politics with Alexie. Alexie reveals that he believes that George W. Bush while not “dumb,” suffers from a lack of intellectual ambition. Alexie uses the concept of “tribes” to discuss how 9/11 has kind of changed his point of view. He questions the idea of America responding “as a tribe” to the attacks and believes that labeling all the victims of 9/11 as heroes is problematic. That romanticizing/vilifying groups of people just leads to more hate: “Hate happens when we romanticize and vilify. As soon as we humanize people, it’s really hard to go to war against them. You start identifying yourself with their strengths and weaknesses.” In talking of poverty, Alexie says, “Anybody who says poverty is ennobling is full of shit. It’s debilitating and demoralizing and destructive.” He does reveal that his success has made him feel guilty in some ways because there were so many other kids on the reservation who were just as “ambitious and intelligent” who didn’t find success. At this point, Alexie’s second movie has been released. While critically acclaimed like the first, it has not had as much commercial success. Alexie admits that his first film was meant to be a crowd-pleaser while the second is more artsy and more true to who he is as an artist. Alexie ends the interview with the best thing about America: “I live in a country that enables somebody like me to transcend class and race, all those categories, to become, simply, a success.”
Marx, Doug. “Sherman Alexie: A Reservation of the Mind.” Conversations with Sherman Alexie. By Nancy J. Peterson. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2009. Print.
This interview is from 1996. At the time, Alexie was about thirty years old. The interview begins with a recap of goals that Alexie had set for himself six years before. He wanted to publish ten books by the age of thirty, see a film adaptation of one of his books by thirty-five, and to receive a “major literary prize” by forty. At the time of the interview, Alexie had achieved the first goal and was in discussions to have three of his books adapted into films. Alexie cracks jokes throughout the interview and reveals that doing readings is the way that he gets drunk now. Alexie struggled with alcohol abuse throughout college and at the time of the interview had been sober for six years. Alexie learned to read at an early age because his health problems prevented him from being overly physical. Alexie initially entered college with a pre-med focus (which he calls one of “the usual options for a bright, brown kid”), but was unfulfilled and turned to alcohol when his plans fell apart. He switched schools and met the professor who introduced him to Native American Literature, and the rest is history. Addressing some of the criticisms that he’s portraying Indian stereotypes in his works, Alexie responds, “I write what I know and I don’t try to mythologize myself, which is what some seem to want, and which some Indian women and men writers are doing, this Earth Mother and Shaman Man thing, trying to create these ‘authentic, traditional’ Indians. We don’t live our lives that way.”