Native American writer Sherman Alexie wins national book award

  1. If you have never read any of Sherman's books, I highly recommend that you do. "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" is a personal favorite.


    [FONT=Arial,Helvetica]Sherman Alexie gets National Book Award[/FONT] [FONT=Arial,Helvetica]Last updated November 14, 2007 11:35 p.m. PT[/FONT]
    NEW YORK -- Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," a chronicle of the adolescence of a contemporary Native American boy, won the National Book Award for young people's literature Wednesday night.

    Denis Johnson's "Tree of Smoke" won for fiction, Tim Weiner's "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA" won for non-fiction and former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass' "Time and Materials" won for poetry.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]AP Sherman Alexie accepts the National Book Award for Young People's Literature for his book "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" at the 58th National Book Awards in New York. Alexie's book is an autobiographical story of a 14-year-old Spokane Indian who leaves his poverty-stricken reservation school and moves to a wealthy, all-white school.

    "The number of brown-skinned teenagers who have embraced the book is so great," Alexie, 41, said Wednesday night from New York. "One kid told me, 'This is like "Catcher in the Rye" for minorities,' and this award makes it feel like that's true."

    Alexie, 41, who lives in Seattle, is a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, about 50 miles northwest of Spokane.

    His first collection of short stories, "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven," was published in 1993 and won a PEN/Hemingway Award for best first book of fiction. He has published 19 books, has done stand-up comedy and writes poetry, screenplays and essays. Alexie is one of the Seattle P-I's Writers in Residence for 2007.

    "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" was published by Little, Brown in September. It is illustrated by Ellen Forney of Seattle.

    "Because this book is so personal, this award feels personal," Alexie said. "It feels like a validation not only of my work, but of my life choices."

    It's the second year in a row that a Seattleite has won a National Book Award. Last year, journalist Tim Egan won for "The Worst Hard Time," his non-fiction account of the Dust Bowl.

    Forney and Egan are also P-I Writers in Residence.

    Johnson's "Tree of Smoke" is a 600-page journey through the physical, moral and spiritual extremes of the Vietnam War and its aftermath. Johnson, 58, who lives in New Mexico, is writing on assignment in Iraq.

    Each winner got $10,000.

    Author Joan Didion and National Public Radio host Terry Gross received honorary medals.

    © 1998-2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
  2. Oh, man, he so deserves this.. his books and speeches are just incredibly funny and thought-provoking. As Roo said, you MUST read him!

    Congrats Sherman!
  3. Such great news - Thanks for posting! He's one of my fav authors!

    and I second your recommendation - great book!
  4. I'm glad there are other fans of Sherman's work here. He is a really great guy.
  5. I love his books!!!!!!!! I love the movie Smoke Signals!!!

    He's so blessed- he was reading The Grapes of Wrath when he was FIVE!!! :huh:
  6. Here's an excerpt from "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven"

    Too hot to sleep so I walked down to the Third Avenue 7-11 for a Creamsicle and the company of a graveyard-shift cashier. I know that game. I worked graveyard for a Seattle 7-11 and got robbed once too often. The last time the b*stard locked me in the cooler. He even took my money and basketball shoes.

    The graveyard-shift worker in the Third Avenue 7-11 looked like they all do. Acne scars and a bad haircut, work pants that showed off his white socks, and those cheap black shoes that have no support. My arches still ache from my year at the Seattle 7-11.

    "Hello," he asked when I walked into his store. "How you doing?"

    I gave him a half-wave as I headed back to the freezer. He looked me over so he could describe me to the police later. I knew the look. One of my old girlfriends said I started to look at her that way, too. She left me not long after that. No, I left her and don't blame her for anything. That's how it happened. When one person starts to look at another like a criminal, then the love is over. It's logical.

    "I don't trust you," she said to me. "You get too angry."

    She was white and I lived with her in Seattle. Some nights we fought so bad that I would just get in my car and drive all night, only stop to fill up on gas. In fact, I worked the graveyard shift to spend as much time away from her as possible. But I learned all about Seattle that way, driving its back ways and dirty alleys.

    Sometimes, though, I would forget where I was and get lost. I'd drive for hours, searching for something familiar. Seems like I'd spent my whole life that way, looking for anything I recognized. Once, I ended up in a nice residential neighborhood and somebody must have been worried because the police showed up and pulled me over.

    "What are you doing out here?" the police officer asked me as he looked over my license and registration.

    "I'm lost."

    "Well, where are you supposed to be?" he asked me, and I knew there were plenty of places I wanted to be, but none where I was supposed to be.

    "I got in a fight with my girlfriend," I said. "I was just driving around, blowing off steam, you know?"

    "Well, you should be more careful where you drive," the officer said. "You're making people nervous. You don't fit the profile of the neighborhood."

    I wanted to tell him that I didn't really fit the profile of the country but I knew it would just get me into trouble.

    "Can I help you?" the 7-11 clerk asked me loudly, searching for some response that would reassure him that I wasn't an armed robber. He knew this dark skin and long, black hair of mine was dangerous. I had potential.

    "Just getting a Creamsicle," I said after a long interval. It was a sick twist to pull on the guy, but it was late and I was bored. I grabbed my Creamsicle and walked back to the counter slowly, scanned the aisles for effect. I wanted to whistle low and menacingly but I never learned to whistle.

    "Pretty hot out tonight?" he asked, that old rhetorical weather bullsh*t question designed to put us both at ease.

    "Hot enough to make you go crazy," I said and smiled.