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Sherman Alexie Portrait

Sherman Alexie's visibility and reputation increased so rapidly in the 1990s that at times he seemed more a natural phenomenon, like a summer thunderstorm, than a mere writer. But an astonishingly inventive writer he is. The son of a Spokane father and a part-Coeur d'Alene mother, Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. He was educated first at Gonzaga University in Spokane and then at Washington State University in Pullman; he now lives in Seattle. His first book of poems and prose poems, The Business of Fancydancing, was selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review in 1992. His next poetry collection, First Indian on the Moon, appeared the following year, along with a volume of his short fiction, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Alexie reworked the short story collection into a film script, which was released as a major motion picture, Smoke Signals, in 1998. That same year he was on Public Television in a panel discussion about race with U.S. President Bill Clinton. And he has continued to be a prolific writer of poetry and fiction, while simultaneously exploring other media. A musical collaboration with Jim Boyd, Reservation Blues—The Soundtrack, based on a 1996 Alexie novel, was released on compact disk in 1995.

Proficient at adapting traditional stanzaic forms, Alexie writes poetry notable for its fusion of cultural criticism and a highly focused irreverence. He has an exuberant, inventive imagination that generates continual surprises and gives him the courage to try almost anything in his writing. Not all his experiments succeed, but no writer as productive as Alexie could succeed all the time.