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Interview with Sherman Alexie

In this interview, Sherman Alexie talks about his health problems as a child, life on the reservation, how alcoholism touched his family and the decision that would change his life forever: Leaving the reservation. Why do you think he had to leave?

Sherman Alexie

Listen to the interview. (26:30 minutes). Take notes while you listen.

Tasks and Activities

Comprehension

  1. What is the title of the young adult book they are discussing, and what is it about?
  2. What does Alexie say about life on the reservation?
  3. Explain why Alexie's choice to leave the reservation at 14 was so crucial.
  4. What does Alexie say about tribal schools as compared to white schools?
  5. Why was he called a red apple and bullied?
  6. Why does he claim that the notion of success is white?
  7. Explain his views on Indians and alcoholism.

Fill in the Missing Words

college, transferred, destined, doctor, government, retardation, Spokane, decision, poetry, experiences, draws, water, randomly, alcoholics, brain

Sherman Alexie grew up on the ___________ Indian Reservation in Welipint, Washington. He was born with ___________ on the brain, and had ___________ surgery when he was six months of age. However, he survived the surgery without mental ___________ . According to Alexie he lived a fairly typical rez life. His mother and father were ___________ . They were ___________ employed, mostly poor, growing up in ___________ housing. At 14 he made the decision to leave the rez to go to a nearby high school. He knew that he had to leave if he wanted to go to ___________ , and at this time he wanted to be a ___________ . Alexie went to Gonzaga University, but ___________ to Washington State University from which he graduated. Soon afterwards he published his first book of ___________ . Much of his writing ___________ on his ___________ as a modern Native American. His novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, is the story of Arnold Spirit Junior, but also Alexie's story about his ___________ to break away from the life he was ___________ to live on the reservation.

Key

Sherman Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Welipint, Washington. He was born with water on the brain, and had brain surgery when he was six months of age. However, he survived the surgery without mental retardation. According to Alexie he lived a fairly typical rez life. His mother and father were alcoholics . They were randomly employed, mostly poor, growing up in government housing. At 14 he made the decision to leave the rez to go to a nearby high school. He knew that he had to leave if he wanted to go to college, and at this time he wanted to be a doctor. Alexie went to Gonzaga University, but transferred to Washington State University from which he graduated. Soon afterwards he published his first book of poetry. Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a modern Native American. His novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, is the story of Arnold Spirit Junior, but also Alexie's story about his decision to break away from the life he was destined to live on the reservation.

Vocabulary

Look up these words in a dictionary: validation, tribe, essence, sibling, fictionalize, bully, target, maiden name, pediatrician, ostracize, diarrhea, adult, epidemic, denial, sobriety, crucial, intoxicated. You can pracitice the words by making a Quizlet.

Discuss

You might want to use the The Ribbon Game to carry out the discussion

  1. Everyone feels like an outsider
  2. The notion of success is white
  3. The magic and the beauty of the reservation
  4. He is a Part-Time Indian
  5. Alcoholism is an issue on the reservation
  6. To leave the reservation is necessary in order to succeed

Further Reading

The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (novel by Sherman Alexie)

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