SHERMAN ALEXIE Biography - Writers


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Name: Sherman Alexie                                                                   
Born: October 7, 1966 Spokane, Washington                                             
Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr. (born October 7, 1966) is an award-winning and             
prolific author and occasional comedian. Much of his writing draws on his             
experiences as a modern Native American. He lives in Seattle, Washington.             
Alexie was born in Spokane, Washington and is of Spokane and Coeur d'Alene             
heritage. He grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington,       
about 50 miles northwest of the city of Spokane.                                       
Since 1991 Alexie has published 17 books, and has found success as a writer of         
novels, short stories, poems, and screenplays. Alexie's writing is marked by           
harsh depictions of reservation life, autobiographical elements, colorful use of       
humor, political outspokenness, seamless invocation of history and popular             
culture, and social commentary. He has also dabbled in stand-up comedy and music.     
In college, Alexie was encouraged to write by his poetry professor, Alexander         
Kuo. His rise in the world of writing was rapid: he earned a Washington State         
Arts Commission Poetry Fellowship in 1991 and the National Endowment for the           
Arts Poetry Fellowship in 1992.                                                       
Only a year after leaving WSU, shortly after receiving his second fellowship,         
two of Alexie's poetry and short story collections were published: The Business       
of Fancydancing (Hanging Loose Press) and I Would Steal Horses (Slipstream Press).     
In the introduction to The Business of Fancydancing, Alex Kuo wrote:                   
“ Throughout this collection, there is an emphasis on balancing carefully, and a     
willingness to forgive, as in the subsistence forays into the sestina in "Spokane     
Tribal Celebration, September, 1987," and "The Business of Fancydancing." The         
history these stories and poems remember goes beyond the individual; it is the         
healing that attends the collective space and distance of both writer and reader,     
which will hopefully "make everything work/so everyone can fly again." Here, on       
a long jumpshot arcing into the distance, there is enough light to push back the       
darkness for several generations to come. ”                                         
Alexie's literary successes prompted him to give up drinking, an issue with           
which he had struggled in college. At age 23 he gave up drinking and has been         
sober since.                                                                           
In 1993, Atlantic Monthly Press published his first complete collection of short       
stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. The collection earned         
him a PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Book of Fiction and a Lila Wallace-Reader's   
Digest Writers' Award. It was reissued, with the addition of two new stories, in       
March 2005 by Grove Atlantic Press.                                                   
Atlantic Monthly Press published Alexie's first novel, Reservation Blues, in           
1995. He was honored by the UK's Granta magazine as one of the Best Young             
American Novelists and won the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award,       
as well as the Murray Morgan Prize.                                                   
In June 1998, Taos, New Mexico, Alexie competed in the World Poetry Bout               
Association (WPBA) and won his first World Heavyweight Poetry Bout, beating out       
world champion Jimmy Santiago Baca. He successfully defended his title three           
times, becoming the first and only poet to hold the championship for four             
consecutive years.                                                                     
Alexie, alongside seven others, presented in the PBS Lehrer News Hour Dialogue         
on Race with President Clinton in 1998. Jim Lehrer moderated the discussion,           
which aired on PBS on July 9, 1998. Alexie has also been featured on Politically       
Incorrect and 60 Minutes II. He wrote a special segment on insomnia and his           
writing process called "Up All Night." for NOW with Bill Moyers.                       
At the Northwest Comedy Festival in Seattle in April 1999, Alexie made his stand-up   
debut at the Foolproof. In July 1999, he was the featured performer at the             
Vancouver International Comedy Festival's opening night gala.                         
In February 2003, Alexie participated in the Museum of Tolerance project, "Finding     
Our Families, Finding Ourselves." This exhibit showcasted the diversity within         
the personal histories of several noted Americans, and celebrated the shared           
experiences common to being part of an American family, encouraging visitors to       
seek out their own histories and heroes. He presented the Museum of Tolerance         
project as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show in January 2003, in the episode "Our     
Big American Family."                                                                 
Alexie has also served as a juror for several writing awards, including the 1999       
O. Henry Award, the 2000 inaugural PEN/ Short Story Award, the Poetry       
Society of America's 2001 Shelley Memorial Award and the Poets and Writers "Writers   
Exchange 2001" Contest. He was a member of the 2000, 2001, 2005 & 2006                 
Independent Spirit Awards Nominating Committees. He has also served as a               
creative adviser to the Sundance Institute Writers Fellowship Program and the         
Independent Feature Films West (which has now been changed to Film Independent)       
Screenwriters Lab. Alexie most recently was a juror for the 2005 Rae Award.