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Sherman Alexie: Author, Poet, Film Director, Native American: Home

Introducing...Sherman Alexie

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Sherman's Story

(From Sherman Alexie's website:

Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., was born in October 1966. A Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA, about 50 miles northwest of Spokane, WA.

Born hydrocephalic, which means with water on the brain, Alexie underwent a brain operation at the age of 6 months and was not expected to survive. When he did beat the odds, doctors predicted he would live with severe mental retardation. Though he showed no signs of this, he suffered severe side effects, such as seizures, throughout his childhood. In spite of all he had to overcome, Alexie learned to read by age three, and devoured novels, such as John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, by age five. All these things ostracized him from his peers, though, and he was often the brunt of other kids' jokes on the reservation.

As a teenager, after finding his mother's name written in a textbook assigned to him at the Wellpinit school, Alexie made a conscious decision to attend high school off the reservation in Reardan, WA, about 20 miles south of Wellpinit, where he knew he would get a better education. At Reardan High he was the only Indian, except for the school mascot. There he excelled academically and became a star player on the basketball team. This experienced inspired his first young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.

In 1985 Alexie graduated Reardan High and went on to attend Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, on scholarship. After two years at Gonzaga, he transferred to Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, WA.

Alexie planned to be a doctor and enrolled in pre-med courses at WSU, but after fainting numerous times in human anatomy class realized he needed to change his career path. That change was fueled when he stumbled into a poetry workshop at WSU.

Encouraged by poetry teacher Alex Kuo, Alexie excelled at writing and realized he'd found his new path. Shortly after graduating WSU with a BA in American Studies, Alexie received the Washington State Arts Commission Poetry Fellowship in 1991 and the National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship in 1992.  Read more here:

Awards for Sherman's Work

For War Dances
2010 PEN / Faulkner Award for Fiction

For The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian:
2009 Peter Pan Award, Sweden
2009 Odyssey Award for audio version, produced by Recorded Books, LLC

2008 Washington Book Award - the Scandiuzzi Children's Book Award for middle grades and young adults
2008 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature in Fiction
2008 Capitol Choices Noteworthy Books for Children
2008 Book Sense Book of the Year Children's Literature Honor Book
2008 Pacific Northwest Book Award
2008 American Indian Library Association American Indian Youth Literature Award
2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature
- See also: acceptance speech; video of ceremony; Book TV coverage; New York Times article; Publishers Weekly article.
2007 Los Angles Times Book Prize Finalist
Publishers Weekly 2007 Best Books of the Year - Children's Fiction

The New York Times Notable Children's Books of 2007
Los Angeles Times Favorite Children's Books of 2007
National Parenting Publication Gold Winner 2007
Barnes & Noble 2007 Best for Teens
School Library Journal Best Books of 2007
Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Books of 2007 (pdf file)
Horn Book Fanfare Best Books of 2007
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon Winner
Kansas City Star's Top 100 Books of the Year

For Ten Little Indians:
June 2003 Publishers Weekly editors' pick
2003 USA Today summer books pick
2003 Los Angeles Times Best of the Best Selection
2003 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book
2003 Publishers Weekly Book of the Year
2003 San Jose Mercury News Best Book and Top 20 Fiction Selection
2003 San Francisco Chronicle Best Seller
2003 Denver Post Best Seller
2003 Book Sense Best Seller
2003 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Fiction finalist
2004 Washington State Book Award finalist
The Best American Short Stories 2004 includes “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”
The O. Henry Prize Stories 2005 includes “What You Pawn I Will Redeem”

For The Business of Fancydancing (film):
2002 Victoria Independent Film & Video Festival
2002 Durango Film Festival, Best Narrative Feature Film
2002 San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, Audience Award Winner
2002 Los Angeles Outfest Outstanding Screenwriting Award
2002 Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, Audience Award Winner

For The Toughest Indian in the World:
2000 National Magazine Award nomination for "The Toughest Indian in the World"
2000 Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize Finalist
2001 PEN USA West Fiction Award Finalist
2001 PEN/Malamud Award

For Smoke Signals (film):
1998 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award
1999 Christopher Award
1999 Nomination for the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay
1998 Florida Film Critics Circle Awards: Newcomer of the Year
1998 San Diego World Film Festival: Best Screenplay

For The Summer of Black Widows:
The Best American Poetry 1996 includes "Capital Punishment"

For Indian Killer:
1996 The New York Times Notable Book of the Year
1996 People Weekly Best of Pages

For Reservation Blues:
1997 Shortlist for IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
1996 Before Columbus Foundation: American Book Award
1996 Murray Morgan Prize

For The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven:
1993 PEN/Hemingway Award: Best First Book of Fiction Citation Winner
1994 Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award
1994 Washington State Governor's Writers Award
The Best American Short Stories 1994 includes "This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona"

For First Indian on the Moon:
1994 Runner-up William Carlos Williams Award

For I Would Steal Horses:
1992 Slipstream Chapbook Contest Winner

For The Business of Fancydancing:
New York Times Book Review: 1992 Notable Book of the Year
"Distances" - 1993 Bram Stoker Award Nominee

2009 Mason Award

2009 Indies Choice Book Award Winner - Most Engaging Author

2008 Stranger Genius Award in Literature

2008 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature in Fiction

2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature

2007 Western Literature Association Distinguished Achievement Award

2005 Pushcart Prize for poem “Avian Nights,” published in Dangerous Astronomy

2003 Regents' Distinguished Alumnus Award, Washington State University

2001 PEN/Malamud Award from PEN/Faulkner Foundation

2000 Honorary Degree from Seattle University

1999 Honorary Degree from Columbia College, Chicago

1999 The New Yorker: 20 Writers for the 21st Century

1998-2001 World Heavyweight Poetry Champion

1998 Tacoma Public Library Annual Literary Award

1996/97 Florida International University Poetry Competition winner for "Inside Dachau," published in The Summer of Black Widows

1996 Granta Magazine: Twenty Best American Novelists Under the Age of 40

1995 Chad Walsh Poetry Award

1994 Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Writers' Award

1994 Washington State University Distinguished Alumni Award

1993 Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award Citation

1992 National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship

1991 Washington State Arts Commission Poetry Fellowship

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