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Sherman Alexie | John Bennett Herrington | Lionel Bordeaux | Naomi Lang | Wilma Mankiller | Ben Nighthorse Campbell | Ben Reifel

Sherman Alexie

Poet, novelist, screen play and short story writer, Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, was born in 1966. He grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. Alexie was born a hydrocephalous, water on the brain. He underwent a brain operation at six-months old and was not expected to survive. Beating the odds, Alexie not only survived, but began reading at the age of three.

As a teenager growing up in an alcoholic family, Alexie determined he would receive a better education off the reservation and traveled to a nearby town to attend a mostly white high school. At 18 he started college at Gonzaga University where he stayed for two years before transferring to Washington State University. His goal was to become a doctor until he fainted in human anatomy class. Alexie found his calling when he took a class in poetry taught by Alex Kuo. He started submitting his work to magazines and was published in Esquire, the New York Quarterly and several other publications.

At eighteen Alexie began to drink heavily, but still made time for his poetry and short stories. When his first book, I Would Steal Horses was accepted for publication in 1991, he quit drinking. The following year the book won a prestigious poetry award and Alexie was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts poetry grant.

The Business of Fancydancing (1991) was named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times. In 1993, Old Shirts and New Skins, First Indian on the Moon and a book of short stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven all were published. His first novel, Reservation Blues (1995) was selected as a Booklist Editor’s Choice Award for Fiction. He published Indian Killer in 1998. In 1999 The New Yorker acknowledged Alexie as one of the top writers for the 21st Century.

Alexie’s first screenplay, Smoke Signals, became the first feature film produced, written and directed by American Indians. Alexie has said the main characters in Smoke Signals, Victor and Thomas, are very much his alter-egos.

Alexie currently serves as a Creative Advisor to the Sundance Institute Writer Fellowship Program. He and his wife Diane live in Seattle with their son.