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BILL MOYERS: Let's talk now with Sherman Alexie. He comes from a long line of people who have lived the consequences of inequality, Native Americans, the first Americans. They were the target of genocide, ethnic cleansing, which for years was the hidden history of America, kept in the closet by the authors and enforcers of white mythology.

How do you grapple with such a long denied history? If you are Sherman Alexie, you face it down with candor and even irreverence, writing poems, novels, and short stories, and even movies. Here's a clip from “Smoke Signals” that Alexie wrote and co-produced in 1998:

VICTOR IN SMOKE SIGNALS: You got to look mean or people won’t respect you. White people will run all over you if you don’t look mean. You got to look like a warrior. You got to look like you just came back from killing a buffalo.

THOMAS IN SMOKE SIGNALS: But our tribe never hunted buffalo, we were fishermen.

VICTOR IN SMOKE SIGNALS: What? You want to look like you just came back from catching a fish? This ain’t “Dances with Salmon,” you know.

BILL MOYERS: Alexie has published 22 books of poetry and fiction, including "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven," "War Dances," and "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” a book for young adults and winner of the National Book Award. His latest work is a collection of short stories, old and new, with the title, "Blasphemy." I’ll ask him why.

He now lives in Seattle, like many of his characters who left the reservation for the city, living in between, and traveling across boundaries both real and imagined.

BILL MOYERS: Sherman Alexie, welcome.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Oh, thank you. It's good to be here.

BILL MOYERS: Life for you is a lot of in between, isn't it?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Well, as a native, as a colonized people you do live in the in between. The thing is I'm native. But necessarily because I'm a member of the country, I'm also a White American.

BILL MOYERS: But you must feel at home in that in between now, because so many people are, as you say, living there.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: I was taught that it was not easy, that there was something destructive about it. I was taught by my elders, my parents that it was a bad, dangerous place to be. But I've come to realize it's actually, it's pretty magical. You know? I can be in a room full of Indians and non-Indians. And I can switch in the middle of sentences. So, and also because I'm ambiguously ethnic looking, you know, I come to New York and I can be anything. People generally think I'm half of whatever they are.

So, I end up feeling like a spy in the house of ethnicity, you know? Because people will talk around me as they would talk around the people in their cultural group. So I get to hear all the secrets and jokes and you know, I'm a part of every community because of the way I look.

BILL MOYERS: Is that a big change from your parents' generation and your generation?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Oh, I mean, I grew up in a monoculture. We did a family tree in sixth grade on the rez and everybody was related.

BILL MOYERS: On the reservation?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Yes, including the teacher. My mom and dad met when he moved to the rez, when he was five and she was 14. And she helped him get a drink at a water fountain. My mom was born in the house where her mom was born. So we were as isolated in the sense of Native Americans as anybody else. So, you know, I realized later on that when I left the rez to go to the White high school on the border of the rez I was a first-generation immigrant, you know? I'm an indigenous immigrant.

BILL MOYERS: What is it like to be an alien in the land of your birth?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: I mean, it's a destructive feeling. Because, you know, a lot of native culture has been destroyed. So you already feel lost inside your culture. And then you add up feeling lost and insignificant inside the larger culture. So you end up feeling lost squared. And to never be recognized, to never have any power, you know, other minority communities actually have a lot of economic, cultural power. But we don't, you know? Not at all.

I mean, you can still have the Washington Redskins, you know? You can still have the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians, which is by far the worst. And if you look at Chief Wahoo on their hats and put Sambo next to him, it's the same thing. And, you know, you could never have Sambo anymore.

Most, you know, at least half the country thinks the mascot issue is insignificant. But I think it's indicative of the ways in which Indians have no cultural power. We're still placed in the past. So we're either in the past or we're only viewed through casinos.

BILL MOYERS: Do you feel shoved back into that tight space, that closet, even by the questions I ask about Indians, natives, reservation, all of that?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Sometimes. But, I'm, you know, it's who I am. So I have no issue talking about it. You know, I know a lot more about being White than you know about being Indian. I am extremely conscious of my tribalism. And when you talk about tribalism, you talk about living in a black and white world. I mean, Native American tribalism sovereignty, even the political fight for sovereignty and cultural sovereignty is a very us versus them. And I think a lot of people in this country, especially European Americans and those descended from Europeans don't see themselves as tribal, you know? I don't think, for instance, Republicans see themselves as tribal. I was speaking to a Republican here in New York, a friend of mine. And, you know, I asked him, "Do you think it's an accident that, what, 80 percent of Republicans are White males?" And he did. I mean, he--

BILL MOYERS: Coincidence, huh?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Yes. He couldn't even imagine that he's part of a tribe. So as a member of a tribe, I think I have a more conscious relationship with black and white thinking. And I used to be quite a black and white thinker in public life and private life until 9/11, you know? And the end game of tribalism is flying planes into building. That's the end game. So since then, I have tried, and I fail often, but I have tried to live in the in between. To be conscious what did Fitzgerald say? The sign of a superior mind is the ability to hold two different ideas. Keats called it negative capability. So I have tried to be in that and fail often, but I try.

BILL MOYERS: That's what I get from your poems. You even see Yo Yo Ma's cello differently from the rest of us. That's one of my favorites. Would you read it?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Oh, yes--

BILL MOYERS: Here it is.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: And this poem is called Tribal Music.

Watching PBS, it occurs
To me that I want to be
Yo Yo Ma's cello.

Hello! Does this mean
That I'm sexually attracted
To Yo Yo Ma? Nah,

He's cute and thin
Looks great in a tux,
And makes the big bucks,

But I long to be simultaneously
As strong and fragile
As the cello. I want to be

The union of fingertip
And string. I want less
To be a timorous human

And desire more
To become a solid
Wooden thing, warm

To the touch but much
Colder when left
Alone in my case. I need

To flee the mystery
Of mortality and insanity
And become that space

Between the notes.
I no longer want to be the root
Cause of anybody's pain,

Especially my own.
O, Yo Yo Ma, I hem
And haw, but let's be clear:

I want to abandon
My sixteen-drum fear
And inhabit the pause

That happens between falling
In love and collapsing
Because of love. I want

To be sane. I want to be
Clean and visionary
Like a windowpane.

BILL MOYERS: Where does that come from?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Well, you know, number one, the cello looks like a woman to me. And, you know, the curves. And so I am in a way, and it's funny to admit this, I am sexually attracted to the cello, the curves really get me. So as I watched him play, you know, Yo Yo Ma is sort of making love to a beautiful woman.

And I want to be that beautiful. So I was thinking of that watching it. And then it occurred to me, you know, I'm a man. I don't want to be a woman. But I want to be the object of beauty. I want to be so clearly beautiful. And in a way it's a need for perfection, you know, the desire to be perfect, even though I can't be and even though if I really started thinking about it I don't want to be. But there's a state of nirvana or bliss especially when Yo Yo Ma's playing. I want to be that blissful. And it's so fleeting. And I'm just incapable of it.

BILL MOYERS: Yearning for that moment of sanity or that place of sanity?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Yes.

BILL MOYERS: You say in there, "To be sane."

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Yes. Well, I'm bipolar. So, you know, I myself veer between these extremes. And to be in the middle is a strong desire. And I mean, I'm working on this idea, I don't know where it's going to go, that being tribal, being colonized automatically makes you bipolar. I think the entire Native American world is bipolar.

BILL MOYERS: But is this your imagination or are you clinically bipolar?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: I'm clinically--

BILL MOYERS: You've been diagnosed--

SHERMAN ALEXIE: I've been diagnosed. I'm medicated. And the medication's working right now. I mean as any person watching this who knows anything the, you know, the medications have to be adjusted constantly, because your brain sneaks around it, you know? Your brain is like the, your bipolar brain is like the soldiers. And your sanity is like the civilians.

BILL MOYERS: Help me understand what the experience of bipolarity is, what happens to you?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Well, you know, when you're depressed, you know, it's like the world has ended. Even getting out of bed takes the most massive amount of effort. But when you're manic, oh, it's so addicting. You know, I have finished novels in two weeks in manic stages.

Just staying up, you know, two days in a row writing and great stuff often. I mean, you're crazy. So you get these incredible images. You know, forget Yo Yo Ma's cello. I mean, it ends up being, you know, I'm, well, I'm hearkening back to somebody like Sylvia Plath, you know, writing Colossus, you know, Daddy, you know, “You do not do." You know, which directly comes out of mental illness. And depression and mania. I would venture that most of the world's great art has come out of manic periods in an artist's life.

BILL MOYERS: But has it ever occurred to you that there's been more preoccupation with Sylvia Plath's illness than with her poetry?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Oh yeah. I mean, there's a new biography out about her. And it's the same story. It's about her craziness.

BILL MOYERS: Why is that?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: I think we're more interested in the biography.

BILL MOYERS: The story.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Yeah, and especially in this era, where there are no secrets anymore, where the audience in fact desires so much to know more about the artist. You know? You're supposed to now Twitter everything you're feeling, you know? You go to, you know, some artist's, writer's Twitters. And like everybody else, they're talking about what they had for dinner, you know? All over writer's Twitter feeds and Facebook pages are pictures of what they had for dinner. And why anybody would care, you know, that I had a bowl of cereal in my hotel room this morning, I don't get it. And—

BILL MOYERS: So does that explain The Facebook Sonnet?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Oh, definitely. Definitely.

BILL MOYERS: All right, let's hear that one.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: The Facebook Sonnet.

Welcome to the endless high school
Reunion. Welcome to past friends
And lovers, however kind or cruel.
Let's undervalue and unmend

The present. Why can't we pretend
Every stage of life is the same?
Let's exhume, resume, and extend
Childhood. Let's all play the games

That occupy the young. Let fame
And shame intertwine. Let one’s search
For God become public domain.
Let church.com become our church.

Let [us] sign up, sign in, and confess
Here at the altar of loneliness.

BILL MOYERS: Sherry Turkle has written a book called Alone Together on just this point. Talking about how the internet has produced this serial isolation.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Well, when I think the human is so complex, you know? And as we're relating here, we're relating on so many different levels that we don't consciously understand. I mean, we're actually smelling each other right now, but our, we, as we talk, don't know that, but our bodies know that, you know? My gestures, your gestures, the look in your eye. And the internet takes all that away. There was, there is one level of communication on the internet, which actually in a way is really insulting to the complexity of being human.

BILL MOYERS: How so?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: It limits us to one sense.

BILL MOYERS: One dimension.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: One dimension. And that's not who we are. The poetry, if you will, of life is reduced to this sort of dry, scientific, you know, it's the worst sort of précis of who we are. And, you know, I don't have Facebook friends. I have friends. And a lot of my friends play basketball. And when we play basketball together, literally, we're touching each other.

And that can't be replicated in any form whatsoever with the internet. And when people say they're really connecting with somebody, I think, it occurs to me that I don't know that they've ever really connected with anybody if they think the internet is how you do it.

You know? It's postcard relationships. In order to know somebody through their words, I mean, it has to be an, it has to be a letter, you know? It has to be a long e-mail. It has to be a five-page hand-written letter, you know, it has to be overwhelming and messy and sloppy as humans are.

And Facebook and Twitter and these other social sites bring every, I mean, 140 characters. I mean, I'm on Twitter and I have fun. But I don't think anybody learns anything about me as a person.

You know, one of the things I've always tried to do as a public person is limit the gap between who I am on a daily basis and who I am on a stage. You know, I've tried to be as honest—

BILL MOYERS: Consciously

SHERMAN ALEXIE: --Yes, I've tried to be as honest as possible.

BILL MOYERS: How are you different?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Well, I think I'm a more gentle person in private, maybe slightly more gentle. I mean, I'm a lot more confrontational in public. I mean, I'm very angry person.

BILL MOYERS: At what?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Oppression.

BILL MOYERS: Oppression?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Racism, sexism, colonialism, the sins of capitalism, the sins of socialism, human weakness, human cruelty. You know, when we behave more like a lion pride than people with prehensile thumbs.

BILL MOYERS: Is writing cathartic for you? Is it healing?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: No. I think it can be healing for readers. You know, I have been helped and healed by other people's words.

BILL MOYERS: Same here.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: But I, my own words for myself, oh man, I don't think so.

BILL MOYERS: Do you think of yourself as a poet first and foremost? Because that's how I first got introduced to you.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: I'm naturally a poet. I started as a poet. I think it's how I look at the world, you know?

BILL MOYERS: What, how does it help you see the world?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: You know, I look at Yo Yo Ma's cello and want to be the cello. I think a novelist would want to write about where the cello came from, who built it. I don't care.

BILL MOYERS: In this poem, Tribal Music, whose tribal music are you writing about?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Mine. A tribe of one. You know, one of the things about being tribal, being a member of a tribe is the force that makes you, that makes the tribe, for you to be like the tribe, to share similar values, to be less of an individual and more a very conscious member of a community to share political beliefs, to share cultural beliefs.

And I've always resisted that. One of the misconceptions about Indians, you know, because liberals love Indians, you know? White liberals worship Indians. But actually, Indians are a conservative lot. I mean, we by and large we vote Democrat, but we live very Republican lives, you know? Indian communities, there's no separation of church and state, war is a virtue, guns are everywhere, by and large pro-life. So, you know, once again, it's a very bipolar existence.

You know, this, you know, knowing that Democrats, by and large, are going to support us more. But still behaving like Republicans. You know, it occurs to me it's like a big city Republicans, who live these incredibly liberal, secular lives in the city, while espousing small town religious politics.

BILL MOYERS: You're so different from how I expected you to be, quite frankly, because I have never met you. Although one of my producers met you some years ago, 11 years ago, I think, Rick Fields. And I have a clip of the piece that we ran on my show then about you from Seattle. Take a peek.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: But my dad, that alcoholic nomad, he used to leave my family for days or weeks at a time drinking and roaming. And I would lie awake all night waiting for him to come home, and five or six times I cried myself sick into the hospital. And I'd lie awake in the kids' ward, ignoring the night shift nurses who came in and said, "Please, try and get a little sleep." So maybe I learned how to be an insomniac because I'm still waiting for my father to come home.

BILL MOYERS: What's changed for you since then?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Medication. I was undiagnosed bipolar. And staying awake was directly the result of that. Either staying awake because I was depressed and didn't want to fall asleep for the nightmares or because I was manic and couldn't fall asleep because I had a million things to do.

BILL MOYERS: Did your father ever come home?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: No. You know, I cut my hair when he died as part of a ceremony. And you can grow it back when the grieving is over. It's been 10 years since he died. So… and I haven't grown my hair back. And I doubt I will.

BILL MOYERS: He was an alcoholic?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Oh, lifelong, really.

BILL MOYERS: There's one scene in your short story War Dances, where the narrator's in the hospital with his father, who has just had surgery. He's cold. And the son is trying to find a blanket for him. Why don't you read this excerpt, War Dances, from Blasphemy.

SHERMAN ALEXIE:

I walked down the hallway - the recovery hallway - to the nurses’ station. There were three woman nurses, two white and one black. Being Native American-Spokane and Coeur d'Alene Indian, I hoped my darker pigment would give me an edge with the black nurse, so I addressed her directly.
"My father is cold," I said. "Can I get another blanket?"

The Black nurse glanced up from her paperwork and regarded me. Her expression was neither compassionate nor callous.
"How can I help you, sir? " she asked.
"I'd like another blanket for my father. He's cold."
"I'll be with you in a moment, sir."
She looked back down at her paperwork. She made a few notes. Not knowing what
else to do, I stood there and waited.
"Sir," the Black nurse said, "I'll be with you in a moment."

She was irritated. I understood. After all, how many thousands of times had she been asked for an extra blanket? She was a nurse, an educated woman, not a damn housekeeper. And it was never really about an extra blanket, was it? No, when people asked for an extra blanket, they were asking for a time machine. And, yes, she knew she was a health care provider. And she knew she was supposed to be compassionate, but my father, an alcoholic, diabetic Indian with terminally damaged kidneys, had just endured an incredibly expensive surgery for what? So he could ride his motorized wheelchair to the bar and win bets by showing off his disfigured foot? I know she didn't want to be cruel, but she believed there was a point when doctors should stop rescuing people from their own self-destructive impulses. And I couldn't disagree with her but I could ask for the most basic of comforts, couldn't I? "My father," I said, "an extra blanket, please. "

BILL MOYERS: Autobiographical?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Oh, completely. You know, I remember when my first short stories came out and people were calling it autobiographical and I fought it. And then 10 years later I reread the book and thought, "Oh shoot, this is memoir.”

BILL MOYERS: Eventually, the son in the story finds a Pendleton blanket. What's a Pendleton blanket?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: It's actually made by a White-owned company in Oregon. These blankets have become highly sacred among Indians. And actually, the Pendleton Company's amazing in their relationship with Indians. So, you know, we love the Pendleton Company in Oregon. And they're gifts. You know, the joke is they're like Native American fruitcakes. The same blanket travels over and over and over. And nobody ever uses it.

BILL MOYERS: Was that you searching for a blanket or wishing you were--

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Wishing and the desire to go out. Because I knew there'd be Indians in the hospital, you know? If you're near an Indian community, there are Indians in the hospital. And so I knew somewhere in that hospital was an Indian family with more than one Pendleton.

BILL MOYERS: And in the story, the son brings the blanket back. And he and his father sing together. Did that happen?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: No, we never sang together.

BILL MOYERS: You wish it had happened?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Yes. I mean, even if we'd sang Elvis together, that would have been great.

BILL MOYERS: You know that you've been described as both an explorer and an exploder of Indian stereotype. And alcohol is surely one of the most persistent stereotypes, correct?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: It's not a stereotype. It's a damp, damp reality. I mean, Native Americans have an epidemic rate of alcoholism. I'm an alcoholic, recovering. My father was an alcoholic. My big brother's an alcoholic. One of my little sister's an alcoholic. My mom's a recovering alcoholic. Every single one of my cousins is a drinker. All of my aunts and uncles were drinkers, some of them have quit, some of them never did. You know, my classmates, you know, three have died in alcoholic-related accidents. My brother has had five best friends die in alcohol-related accidents. And we're not atypical.

BILL MOYERS: What have you come to understand about that?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: It’s medication. Trying to take away the pain. And in a way it has substituted for cultural ways of dealing with the pain. So instead of singing, we're drinking. And my father often said, "I drink because I'm Indian," which, you know, is the saddest thing imaginable.

BILL MOYERS: Why did you drink?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Because I'm Indian.

BILL MOYERS: How do you, how do you stay sober?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Because I don't want to disappoint all those hungry sons out there, whose own fathers have failed them. Because whether or not I believe in visions or omens, the last time I drank, I completely destroyed my then girlfriend's birthday party with my alcoholic behavior. And woke up the next day, late in the afternoon feeling deeply ashamed and thinking once again, "I'm going to quit." You know, I tried eight or nine times. But I woke up, went and checked my mail, and the acceptance from "Hanging Loose" for my first poetry book was in the mail. And I thought, "Okay, this is a sign. Write poems, sober up."

BILL MOYERS: And you did?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: And I did.

BILL MOYERS: You live in Seattle now. You've lived there for how long?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Twenty years.

BILL MOYERS: But as a boy you lived on the Spokane--

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Indian Reservation.

BILL MOYERS: --Reservation. How do you feel where you're in a place where your people were ethnically cleansed?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: We didn't make reservations. The military, the US military and government made reservations. And it was a place where we're supposed to be concentrated and die and disappear. And I don't know, and I think it's only out of self-destructive impulses that Native Americans have turned reservations into sacred spaces.

BILL MOYERS: You don't consider them sacred?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: No. Often the place where reservations are aren't where the sacred locations were for tribes. I think Spokane, because it's where Spokane Falls is, I think the city is actually far more sacred than the reservation.

BILL MOYERS: Well, more Indians today live in the cities than live on reservations.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: It's almost 70 percent of natives live off the reservation. It's not easy to live in either place.

BILL MOYERS: Can American Indians ever feel easy in a country that is haunted by the memories of genocide, ethnic cleansing?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: I think for that process to begin, the United States would have to officially apologize. I mean, there's a Holocaust museum in the United States, which I think there should be.

BILL MOYERS: Right in downtown Washington.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: But there should also be a Native American Holocaust Museum.

BILL MOYERS: Why isn't there?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: This country's not good at admitting to its sins.

BILL MOYERS: Have you ever heard an apology for what happened?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: From White liberals. But never from White conservatives.

BILL MOYERS: These were, you were nearly exterminated. You--

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Oh, late 19th century, early 20th, we almost blinked out. Ironically, the reservations also saved us, because they concentrated us.

BILL MOYERS: How did that save you?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Breeding. You know? It wasn't until much later when the US government realized that relocation, taking us out of, you know, highly-concentrated ethnic communities was the way to dissipate us. And that didn't work either, you know? There are blond Indians now, red-headed Indians. So it was cultural protection. It was sovereignty. The impulse to be together in a little group.

BILL MOYERS In this sense, possessed of a horrendous memory, do you sometimes think of yourself as Jewish?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Constantly. I have a really strong identification with that. And, you know, it's funny, because my poetry editors are Jewish. And, you know, I have quite an international following. And one of my editors tells the story of she and her husband were in Europe and these Italian scholars were really obsessed and questioning about, you know, "What is the relationship between Jewish people and Indians?" And using my work as sort of this universal idea. And they asked her, "What does the Native world think about,” you know, “Jewish people and Native Americans?" And she said, "I think only Sherman talks about that." So I, it's a very personal vision.

The big thing is humor. Humor in the face of incredible epic pain. I mean, Jewish folks invented American comedy. When you're being funny in the United States, you're being Jewish. And despite all this incredible dislocation. And the thing, you know, even though it's pretty similar in population, the number of Jewish folks and the number of Native Americans, they've had this incredible success. They have this incredible cultural power.

And in a way, I wish that was us. In a way, that could have easily been us. You know? Indians with our storytelling and artistic ability could have created Hollywood. We could have created American comedy. So in some ways, we're the yin and yang of the American genocidal coin.

BILL MOYERS: There's a poem that I have read several times in anticipation of this meeting. And this one is troubling. Another Proclamation.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Another Proclamation.

When
Lincoln
Delivered
The
Emancipation
Proclamation,
Who
Knew

that, one year earlier, in 1862, he'd signed and approved the order for the largest public execution in United States history? Who did they execute? "Mulatto, mixed-bloods, and Indians." Why did they execute them? "For uprising against the State and her citizens." Where did they execute them? Mankato, Minnesota. How did they execute them? Well, Abraham Lincoln thought it was good

And
Just
To
Hang
Thirty-eight
Sioux

simultaneously. Yes, in front of a large and cheering crowd, thirty-eight Indians dropped to their deaths. Yes, thirty-eight necks snapped. But before they died, thirty-eight Indians sang their death songs. Can you imagine the cacophony of thirty-eight different death songs? But wait, one Indian was pardoned at the last minute, so only thirty-seven Indians had to sing their death songs. But O, O, O, O, can you imagine the cacophony of that one survivor's mourning song? If he taught you the words, do you think you would sing along?

BILL MOYERS: Talk about that.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Well, essentially, they were executed for terrorism. The perception of being terrorists for defending themselves and their people from colonial incursions.

BILL MOYERS: As the Whites had been pushing into Minnesota, pushing them further west. And promised them, as I understand it, food in exchange for land. And then the food didn't come. And the Indians reacted violently.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: And then all over the country massacres happening of people they, you know, they would push these tribes and these people onto reservations and then send the soldiers in to wage war on them. I just learned, I don't know why I didn't know this, some sort of denial I guess. But they gave medals of honor to U.S. soldiers who participated at Wounded Knee, absolute massacres of unarmed women, children, and elderly people.

They gave medals of honor. And, you know, this idea of Lincoln as this great savior. Which is true. But in deifying him, it completely, completely whitewashes the fact that he was also a complete part of the colonization of Indians, a complete part of the wholesale slaughter of Indians.

BILL MOYERS: He lived in the in between like everyone. What I know of this incident is that 303 Indians were sentenced to death. President Lincoln commuted the sentences of 265 of them on the basis he himself said of not enough evidence, but allowed 38 of them to be hanged.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: So, the hypocrisy abounds. So once again, the way in which I watch Lincoln the movie is far different than most people watch Lincoln.

That movie in no way portrayed the complexity of human beings, and certainly does not portray the complexity of Lincoln, who for his genius was also, you know, an incredibly, as any politician, an incredibly conflicted and conflicting man, who was capable of ordering great evil. And who did, in fact, by ordering it, created a great evil, committed great evil, a sinful, sinful man that Lincoln.

BILL MOYERS: Had you known about the story for a long time?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: You know, most Indians know a lot about the massacres. They're touchstones. They're a myth for us.

BILL MOYERS: What saved you spiritually? What saved you inwardly?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Storytelling.

BILL MOYERS: How so?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: The age-old stories, you know, sort of an actual sacred nostalgia. And keeping all the ghosts alive, keeping all the memories alive. If you tell a story well enough, everybody in it is right there. So nobody ever dies.

BILL MOYERS: Why did you call this book Blasphemy?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Because I've been so often accused of it by Indians and non-Indians.

BILL MOYERS: How so?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Because I question everything. Because even though I do believe in the sacred, I believe just as strongly in questioning what people think is sacred. Because we're humans and we make mistakes. So, you know, I do my best to point out our weaknesses. And people don't like that. And the weaknesses of our institutions and the weaknesses of our politicians and the weaknesses of our religions.

Once again, 9/11, was the event for me. 9/11 turned all sorts of people into fundamentalists who weren't otherwise, on the left and the right, in the Christian worlds and in the Muslim worlds. And I refuse to participate.

BILL MOYERS: So what do you mean by blasphemy?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: I don't believe in your God. And "your" means the royal "your."

BILL MOYERS: Do you believe in your God?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: No.

BILL MOYERS: What do you believe in?

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Stories. Stories are my God.

BILL MOYERS Would you read this for me?

SHERMAN ALEXIE:
Vilify.

I've never been to Mount Rushmore. It's just too silly. Even now, as I write this,
   I'm thinking
About the T-shirt that has four presidential faces on the front and four bare asses
   on the back.
Who's on that damn T-shirt anyway? Is it both Roosevelt, Jefferson, and Lincoln?

Don't get me wrong, I love my country. But epic sculpture just leaves me blinking
With dry-eyed boredom (and don't get me started on blown glass art. I really
   hate that crap).
I've never been to Mount Rushmore. It's just too silly. Even now, as I write this,
   I'm thinking

That I'd much rather commemorate other president. Let's honor JFK's whoring
   and drinking
Or the thirteen duels Andrew Jackson fought to defend his wife's honor. Why
   don't we sculpt that?
Who's on that damn Rushmore anyway? Is it McKinley, Arthur, Garfield,
   and Lincoln?

And, yes, I know, there's a rival sculpture of Crazy Horse, but the sight of that
   one is ball-shrinking
Because Crazy Horse never allowed his image to be captured, so which sculptor
   do you think he'd now attack?
I've never been to Mount Rushmore. It's just too silly. Even now, as I write this
   I'm thinking

About George W's wartime lies, Clinton's cigars, and Nixon's microphones, and
   I'm cringing
Because I know every president, no matter how great on the surface, owned a
   heart chewed by rats.
Who's on that damn Rushmore anyway? Is it Buchanan, both Adamses,
and Mr. Lincoln?

Answer me this: After the slaughterhouse goes out of business, how long
   will it go on stinking
Of red death and white desire? Should we just cover the
   presidents' faces with gas masks?
Who cares? I've never been to Rushmore. It's too silly. Even now, as I write
   this, I'm thinking:
"Who's on that damn mountain anyway? Is it Jefferson, Washington,
  vReagan, and Lincoln?"

BILL MOYERS: Now go eight pages over to page 38 and read me your footnote.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: So it's footnote 13.

Honestly, I've never been there. This is not a conceit for the poem. I've truly never had any interest in visiting Mount Rushmore or the Crazy Horse memorial. Once while driving in the region, I thought about stopping by, but I didn't. I have no regrets. I've seen Alfred Hitchcock's film "North by Northwest," where Cary Grant's climactic battle with the bad guys happens on the face of Mount Rushmore. It's exciting. But I much prefer the ending where we watch Grant and Eva Marie Saint start to make out in their train car, and then cut to the final shot of that awesomely phallic train penetrating a wonderfully vaginal mountain tunnel. I'm a lover, not a fighter."

BILL MOYERS: And we’re all glad for that. Sherman Alexie, I really enjoyed this time with you. And thank you very much for sharing it.

SHERMAN ALEXIE: Thank you, thank you.

Sherman Alexie on Living Outside Cultural Borders

April 12, 2013

Born on a Native American reservation, Sherman Alexie has been navigating the cultural boundaries of American culture in lauded poetry, novels, short stories, screenplays, even stand-up comedy for over two decades. Alexie joins Bill to share his irreverent perspective on contemporary American life, and discuss the challenges of living in two different cultures at the same time, especially when one has so much dominance over the other.

“I know a lot more about being white than you know about being Indian,” Alexie tells Bill.

Alexie’s latest collection of stories, Blasphemy, was published in October, 2012. He joins us for an online live chat on Tuesday, April 16 @ 1 pm. Get details and submit your questions.

Interview Producer: Gail Ablow. Editors: Rob Kuhns & Andrew M.I. Lee. Associate Producer: Robert Booth.

Photographer: Alton Christensen.

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  • fourlegged

    good interview and discussion….it is still unbelievable that we have mascots of native peoples and the topic can be full of misunderstanding…i know that many white people and even some indians have reverence for the native mascot. Possibly, it is one of the only ways people can identify with things native american. I find it ignorant and unacceptable and try to ask people how they would like it if they had an endearing, close cultural symbol or spiritual symbol, which they identified with running around a football field dancing and carrying on for a sporting event…Can you imagine the Catholic outcry if we had people dressing up as priests and nuns, in full habit and uniform, running around dancing and spreading holy water on a college football field for the Saturday game? Seriously, people would not put up with it. Alexie makes a good point about Indians being low on the economic ladder in America and being powerless. Glad I caught the interview, Bill. We should get your face up there on Rushmore too…

  • http://charlesvanderhaegen.wordpress.com/about/ Charles van der Haegen

    Such an interview has the tremendous power to raise the level of our consciousness about the World We’ve created. Thanks to both the interviewer and the interviewee.

  • jusbe

    damn good poet. Bill Moyers I love you, You’re a voice crying out in the wilderness. You give me hope that humanity can still be a success on this beautiful blue planet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/krista.behymer Krista Behymer

    Thank you for this wonderful interview with one of my favorite artists.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.fisher.7121 Robert Fisher

    A topic that has always been close to my hart having grown up near an Indian Reservation and going to school with them, having many Indian friends, working with them and seeing their pain of Poverty and Alcoholism for
    over 40 years, until they got their first Bingo Hall, and then, finally things started to change.
    A sad state of affairs for our Countries History!! The Jews story, has nothing on the American Indians slaughter!!!! The Jews after all, still have a country!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tarquin.zest Tarquin Zest

    Sherman dresses really nicely.

  • susanpub

    “Because I know every president, no matter how great on the surface, owned a heart chewed by rats.”

    And don’t you forget it. Can anyone get into the oval office without being part of the game? I doubt it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/randyhartnell Randy Hartnell

    Thanks Bill to you and your team for another wonderfully enlightening program. I will never look at a native American the same way, including those I count among my friends. Thank you Sherman Alexie for your honesty, “blasphemy” and heartfelt insights. You are making a difference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=644732525 Samia Goudie

    awesome love Sherman Alexie

  • Anonymous

    How pathetic and shameful. Unequal………then why do earn a wage payed by the American people??

  • Rainadustbowlstory

    Bill Moyers is a gold miner, and he always finds gold. I don’t see why Sherman Alexie isn’t on every radio and television talk show every week: he is the best interview in the literary world.

    I’d encourage other college teachers to show this clip to their students.

  • besotted

    Always enjoy your program. It’s good to have at least one voice for the lost (and losing) middle class.

    Am in love with Sherman Alexie.

  • P. Swag

    The story of Native Americans is not unlike what is happening to Palistine.

  • Peter

    What a wonderful, moving and personal interview. I loved it. Insightful television like this is so rare and refreshing to watch. Thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/connie.hammond1 Connie Hammond

    Thanks for the beautiful, thought-provoking interview. I can’t wait to read to more stories and poems by Sherman Alexie. The discussion on the commonality of Native Americans with other colonized and oppressed cultures reminds me of the oppression of the Palestinians whose lands and rights been taken away. They also have this remarkable ethnic humor in the face of the face of the most tragic oppression.

  • MikeD

    The alcoholism, drugs, unemployment of the Native peoples is really a symptom of a profound crisis – the loss of a deeply spiritual and intimate relationship to the land. Out of that bond came the sacred myths and stories that gave meaning to their lives. In being a poet and story-teller he is attempting to keep alive the memories of those life-sustaining myths.

    I was particularly moved with that poem on asking the nurse a blanket for his father. The blanket, to crawl under and die, a metaphor for unfathomable despair.

  • bab

    That’s what you took away. The bi-polar story and his personal life was much more compelling for me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasontingram Jason T Ingram

    Amazing show. I am also bipolar. Anyway, I spent over a decade in conservative almost fundamentalist Christian circles and worked with a lot of native people. I wanted to add that I did see public ceremonies that included apologies from the white community to bring healing. There was also a deep connection with Jews and native folks. It’s rare to see this form Bible based Christianity doing stuff like this, but there are groups that are trying to bridge those gaps. I left them because I came out as gay/bisexual… One time, a group from Israel, plus a native group from the south with a hundred and twenty shamanic style drums went to a remote Alaskan village to meet, pray and worship. I was deeply moved, and honored to be involved in the music.

  • http://www.facebook.com/morgaine.swann Morgaine Swann

    I was very lucky to see this wonderful interview. I wish I could put into words why it meant so much, but it’s all involved with ethnicity, real and perceived, and standing between worlds because you have no real place in any of them. I’m also bipolar, and it’s always exciting to see someone who functions so superbly in spite of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Pikake52 Jeannine Johnson

    I loved this interview and Sherman. As a Native Hawaiian, I could identify with his point of view. The fact that we as a people have been apologized to by the US government though hasn’t changed the social inequities that still exist. Dr. Kamana’opono Crabbe, CEO of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, believes that Native Hawaiians, collectively, suffer from ho’ino’ino (broken spirit) resulting from “years of cultural conflict with Westerners, acculturative discord, and progressive cultural regress.” Our lands have not been returned to us and sovereignty has been denied to us by the Senators in the Republican Party. Until both happen, Native Hawaiians will continue to be the poorest of the poor, the most unhealthiest of races, and denied the cultural dignity we deserve.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Bill for featuring this interview with Sherman. I never heard of him before. My parents called me and said I had to watch it. My wife is bipolar so his candid admission was most fascinating to me. I couldn’t agree more as to why there shouldn’t be a Native American Holocaust memorial. With all the money tribes have made from gambling, you’d think there would be interest in pouring a few million dollars into getting a memorial started. The massacre of Native Americans disturbs me greatly. I’m a first generation American. I feel like it’s so easy for me to see through so much of the patriotic superficiality that blankets this nation. Yes, I’m a “white liberal” and I’m Jewish. But I’m critical and always question what the “official story” is. Sherman made me feel sad. I can’t get over my anger towards The United States of Inequality. I live here and I feel as if this nation will one day explode itself out of existence. The U.S. has yet to experience its final comeuppance for its colonial crimes. The destruction of the native American people forever stains the American psyche.

  • louscott

    I loved this interview. I’ve sent it to all my smart friends.

  • Wendy

    Well, I wrote an essay and dangit, it was lost in the disqus!
    So, I’ll just say, I was lost in the quagmire of first family dissolve- Doukhabor and Spanish. Then adopted by First Nations, (residential school survivor), and Scotish, which dissolved too! Doukhabors and First Nations have a lot in common… all fighting for spiritual freedom! While the wars and secrets within brought on isms of all kinds, there were deaths, illness, lost childhoods and family dissolve. Then who took control?!*
    After living on the inside and out, feeling ostrasized and discombobulated, I turned it all inside out and through an holistic approach, including nature and animals, I’m fortunate to have found my way home to spirit.
    And within an exacting code of ethics, I’m given the opportunity to help others discover their personal haven for soul and spirit free. I do not believe either spirit, soul or mind have borders. I am free.
    Thank you both for this beautiful interview! Peace be yours!
    @fourlegged- Imagine freedom fighter mascots, if you will…just saying;)

  • jeanneger

    Excellent interview. So much to learn about one native americans perspective. Bravo once again, Bill Moyers.

  • Anonymous

    Lincoln showed great courage and moral integrity when he saved hundreds of
    Indians from execution. Sherman Alexie wants you to forgot that
    and accept his simple-minded dichotomy of Indian = good and White = bad.

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/lincoln-and-the-sioux/

    The final approval for the executions rested with the president. General Pope,
    seeking a quick and dramatic finish to the affair, pressured Lincoln to
    sign the orders for all 303 executions. Nor was he alone; outraged newspaper
    editors and congressmen advocated a speedy hanging as well. Alexander
    Ramsey, the governor of Minnesota – who had made a fortune cheating the Sioux —
    threatened that if the president didn’t hang all the condemned, the
    citizens of his state would.

    The Sioux had a rare friend, however, in Minnesota’s Episcopal bishop, Henry
    Whipple. The clergyman traveled to Washington and met with Lincoln, who
    was so impressed with Whipple’s account that he ordered that every case be
    re-examined on its own merits. After thorough analysis, only 38 Sioux could
    be proved to have participated in the uprising. Lincoln immediately approved
    their execution order, and commuted the sentences of the others. In a
    finish that is pure Lincoln, the president hand wrote the list of long,
    difficult, phonetically spelled Sioux names himself, and advised the
    telegrapher on the vital necessity of sending them correctly, lest the wrong men
    be hanged.

  • brentwood

    If Bill Moyers ran for God, I’d vote for him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/padmagrrl Diana Hagerty

    wow. the Abe Lincoln story was really shocking. Learned a lot. As usual, incredible stuff Bill. Thanks for everything.

  • Wendy

    p.s. And to those I hear say, “Get over it!” (and other such things), try to sit through a documentary such as this:
    http://aptn.ca/pages/wewerechildren/
    Think about the devastating intergenerational impact. Imagine walking a mile in the moccasins of those who survived. Have empathy and form a compassionate conspiracy of the shared heart so healing and peace will be given a chance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Janet-Ramos/999931024 Janet Ramos

    Thank you Robert Fisher….you are very astute..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Janet-Ramos/999931024 Janet Ramos

    Me toooooooooooooooo…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Janet-Ramos/999931024 Janet Ramos

    I so agree with you…They have taken everything from us…Then they want us to be like them…no way, I am still trying to help my white friends to understand that we do not want to be like them …we want to be who we are …ANISANAABE….(The first people)..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Janet-Ramos/999931024 Janet Ramos

    Wendy you are a wise soul…thank you for your thoughts…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Janet-Ramos/999931024 Janet Ramos

    AND the NATIVE AMERICANS…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Janet-Ramos/999931024 Janet Ramos

    Much peace and love for you Bill and most of all to ALEXI…Thank you, You have blessed many with your inner peace ..

  • Wendy

    If I may gently, within the ethics of mental health and human kindness, correct you on one thing, Cutis: While your wife “may have bi-polar”, I’m sure she “is” far more than the label been given her. I’m from a belief that these labels on the human condition; a stressed system and perhaps dicombobulated spirit in need of some integration and healing is more the truth. Over the years and in many places, this has been proven and persoanlly have witnessed miracles when the reconnection and awakening occurs. Peace

  • Wendy

    thanks for thanking me:)

  • Bill

    I really don’t know where to start but this now “Happy” Native American has been Bs’d into thinking ALL Native Americans are Bi-Polar therefore needs to be put on drugs? WHEEW!! Really??

  • http://www.judithgargyi.vpweb.com Judith

    Wow! like a great wine…this interview is unforgettable…

  • http://twitter.com/GiniaMG Ginny Greco

    AWESOME!!!! Would love to meet this Man, Sherman Alexie in person and share my book, The Healing Feeling, with him personally.

  • Sdurnell

    I have been a fan of Alexie’s for years, and finally heard him speak Iast October when he came to Spokane on his book-signing tour. I gave the book he signed to my son’s girlfriend, so I need another.

    Years ago when I was teaching in a small school near the Spokane Reservation, I had a wonderful student from another reservation who told me that “Indians can’t be famous.” I was pleased to have this real-life man, one who had lived just down the river from us, to hold offer him as an example of a justly famous Indian.

  • Wendy

    Praises be to you, as an example of a justly fine teacher, who help children grow into phenomenal adults such as Sherman Alexie. Hallelujah!

  • Long-skirted Librarian

    Thank you Bill and Sherman – great interview and always invigorating to hear the Sherm-dog POV!

  • Ashley Mays

    Brilliant, engaging, eye-opening & inspiring. Many thanks to both of you.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent ! Thank you SO much for interesting educational television.

  • sagewriter

    Enjoyed hearing Alexie read his own works.

  • raine

    Enjoyed so much the Moyer’s interview with Alexie. I knew very little about him and after hearing his words with Moyers and hearing him reading his poems….well I need to read more about the man and his experiences. Also an eye opening discussion about Lincoln had me , I’m sorry to say, quite dumbfounded! I never heard about the hangings he sanctioned, so I need to read more about this.
    What an interesting, warm, engaging man. I look forward to learning more.

  • Anonymous

    Very impressive this “Indian” & really informative but I had herd the Lincoln story before. The “legend” of Lincoln gets more & more clouded as the “news” comes out. But then isnt that the essence of democracy, no real heroes!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lazlo.long.1 Lazlo Long

    Sherman Alexie is a very refined and eloquent speaker who somehow defines the pretty much unknown indigenous subculture as it exists today and where they should go from here.

  • kauai kid

    Important for all of us to consider the issue – women face it in the working world where men dominate. When she acts like the men (speaks her mind) she is criticized for being a “ball buster”. People of all nationalities/ethnicities face it constantly. And it is all invisible to the dominant culture that scoffs that there is any difference (“be like us – aggressive”). My husband is Native Hawaiian and it took a long time to realize the differences because the reaction to the dominant group is often silence. This then gets interpreted as: the person agrees with me or worse: is dull-witted. In many cultures, it is important to be deferential, especially when dealing with people older than you are. Read the Culture Shock series of books which will open your eyes to differences and the importance of being sensitive. It’s all about having good manners and being considerate of others.

  • worldstudent

    I can’t believe I never learned about any of these Massacres at school. What else did the American public school system hide from me? I loved Alexie’s attitude towards questioning everything, even if it might be “Sacred.” His part about social networking and our inability to connect properly with other human beings, I disagree. I wonder how he’d respond to couples falling in love over the internet, through emailing, chatting etc? The written word is powerful. Don’t we all connect with the author of a good novel? Their choice of adjectives, metaphors, and even grammar in some cases..

  • Arizzzona

    Bringing to Sherman Alexie & Bill Moyers’ attention a very special & different book, “Oral History of the Yavapai,” it’s history from the Indians’ point of view. More: http://www.oralhistoryoftheyavapai.com

  • Rosa DuCree

    writer/artist : SHERMAN ALEXIE.. Is declared in my mine to be a GREAT AMERICAN poet/ writer . His writings are fun, fabulous and touches the human heart on sensitive issues of life and mostly written in a biographical context. I would call him a great Native American writer for all the people…. To read and learn about the human conditions of indigenous population in American….Love his work get his new book and be inspired!

  • Anonymous

    It’s interesting that he complains about the internet diminishing the human experience: And

    “And as we’re relating here, we’re relating on so many different levels that we don’t consciously understand. I mean, we’re actually smelling each other right now, but our, we, as we talk, don’t know that, but our bodies know that, you know? My gestures, your gestures, the look in your eye. And the internet takes all that away. There was, there is one level of communication on the internet, which actually in a way is really insulting to the complexity of being human.”

    The funny part of all this is that he is making these remarks on a TV SHOW. Think about it: by the same criteria, is TV any less of an insult? Actually TV is an even greater insult by the same criteria. Why? Because it is a one way flow: we (the viewer) can’t talk back. So, not only are we unable to “unconsciously smell each other”, we are unable to talk back. We DO have the visual experience of being able to observe the gestures and integrate our interpretation of how these influence what is being said, subtly, even though he seems to be saying we can not.

    Plus, even though we can’t unconsciously smell each other through either media, We DO have a conscious awareness that most TV shows stink.

    With TV, all, other than Moyers and Alexie are a part of an audience that is only afforded the opportunity to watch and listen and not talk back: unless the program allowed callers — then, perhaps a half dozen may have been able to contribute. This unscented blog article however might be here for years and years, allowing many to view and read and comment and share.

    I am not entirely sure: does Alexie typically only read his poetry to live audiences, where we all get a chance to unconsciously get a whiff of him, each other and the venue’s staff? Or does he sometimes publish a book, which would seem to be an even greater insult to the complexity of being human, by offering us less perception even than TV: no longer do we get to see him, and we can’t hear him as well.

    Certainly the interaction of live human beings in real, right-there in the here-and-now corporeal communication, with scent, sight, smell, tears, belches and farts: it’s great stuff and I wish us all more and more such opportunities, but I do not feel insulted by the advance of the net nor do I feel any diminishment.

  • Rebecca Whetstine

    Danlocke: red herrings, much?

  • Anonymous

    As an online educator, American Indian scholar (Choctaw), and avid reader, I realize that Alexie makes too much of the “distance” created with online communications. Humans have communicated in writing at a distance for 5000+ years, and writing does bring us together–otherwise he would never have become the famous author he is. Students in my online classes learn to work together and learn to appreciate the struggles individuals overcome in order to succeed in the classes because they recognize those struggles as their own–all without ever meeting each other or smelling each other. Admittedly, I push my students to learn to write to enliven all five senses, but these senses can and are easily conveyed in writing. We don’t have to smell the chemicals on Alexie’s suit to know he had it professionally pressed.

  • Floating Clouds

    I have seen Sherman before; always honest but very, very funny and seemingly upbeat. This interview portrayed a more somber side; yet he is always eloquent and painfully truthful about the human condition. My 88 year old Mom, who has laughed her way through much hardship, loves his books and gives them as gifts. My mixed race, gender questioning teenage nephew identified strongly with Absolutely True Diary… And I see myself in many of his stories. Always an inspiration to learn more, fight for equal rights and justice issues, remain true to oneself, laugh and make others laugh, and to never fear speaking the truth.

  • Wendy

    I have sang and danced my way through much hardship and adversity; I do believe I could use some more laughter in life, now. You’ve inspired me to read all of Sherman’s books. I LOVE Smoke Signals. It is perfect!
    And to your closing statement, I say, Amen~.~

  • Anonymous

    MOST minorities know a lot more about being white than American whites know about minorities. Wait–most Europeans know a lot more about Americans than Americans know about European groups.
    Alexie is interesting to listen to, but his knowledge of the mainstream is hardly unusual–it’s the standard.

  • Kerin Gould

    I like his early work, but 1. i stopped reading Alexie when his novels started selling in airports and 2. he does not single-handedly define the modern Indian, not even the modern Coeur d’Alene.

  • Dean Jacobson

    I’m heading back to Spokane, after spending 12 years with a people who will also be dislocated (by rising seas, the Marshallese of the Marshall Islands), and I am happy to share the state with Sherman! (who I saw at a screening of Smoke Signals in Spokane). Great interview.

  • abutterflybreeze

    It’s such a pleasure to learn of Sherman Alexie. I have Smoke Signals queued up on Netflix! The idea taught that we are a nation of [fill in the rhetoric blank] as children has never set well with me and always appeared to be an illusion, because the truth is, if we are not native Americans, we are largely either descendants of a group of European marauders or descendants of a group kidnapped from their native lands (with the exception of those seeking asylum). An apology from North American government officials would be appropriate although grossly inadequate as the harm to the quality of life and health of these people would appear beyond repair. It’s a travesty, one that remains a fundamental smudge on the foundation of the U.S. I often wonder and try to imagine how the coasts, strip malls, parking lots and highways would have appeared in their natural state before “we” arrived.

  • Wendy

    Well said!
    I think many here and especially you, would appreciate this series. There are 4 that you will find in this link.
    Yes, VERY WELL MADE in Canada… closely akin.
    All “we” are saying is give truth and peace a chance.
    http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/Shows/Doc+Zone/8th+Fire/ID/2186429161/

  • abutterflybreeze

    Thanks Wendy, I’ll be sure to check it out ~