The first time one is able to comprehend the meaning of a word is a momentous childhood moment that is forever engraved in one’s memory. Books and reading are significantly impactful to people’s lives; Mark Twain said that, “books are for people who wish they were somewhere else.” This statement is apropo for Sherman Alexie, who was a Native American living on a reservation during the time he learned to read. Sherman Alexie convinces his audience that an education is crucial to being successful by using personal anecdotes to captivate and create a connection with his audience and repetition to reiterate the importance of having an education.
Expectations often impose an inescapable reality. In the short story “Indian Education” by Sherman Alexie, Victor often struggles with Indian and American expectations during school. Alexie utilizes parallelism in the construction of each vignette, introducing a memoir of tension and concluding with a statement about Victor’s difficulties, to explore the conflict between cultures’ expectations and realities.
In his book the Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie portrays a teenage boy, Arnold Spirit (junior) living in white man’s world, and he must struggle to overcome racism and stereotypes if he must achieve his dreams. In the book, Junior faces a myriad of misfortunes at his former school in ‘the rez’ (reservation), which occurs as he struggles to escape from racial and stereotypical expectations about Indians. For Junior he must weigh between accepting what is expected of him as an Indian or fight against those forces and proof his peers and teachers wrong. Therefore, from the time Junior is in school at reservation up to the time he decides to attend a neighboring school in Rearden, we see a teenager who is facing tough consequences for attempting to go against the racial stereotypes. The decision to attend a white school is a tough one and Junior understands that for him to survive and to ensure that his background does not stop him from attaining his dreams; he must battle the stereotypes regardless of the consequences. In this light, race and stereotypes only makes junior stronger in the end as evident on how he struggles to override the race and stereotypical expectations from his time at the reservation to his time at Rearden.
Sherman Alexie is a Native American poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, comedian, filmmaker and scriptwriter. He represents the second generation of Native American writers who have become prominent in the 1990s. He is the most recognized, prolific, and critically acclaimed author in modern Native American literature. He has been described by David Moore as "the reigning world heavyweight poetry bout champion in the second generation of Native American literary renaissance begun in the 1960s".1 Alexie was born on October 7, 1966, in the town of Wellpinit on the Spokane Indian Reservation in eastern Washington State. Alexie's father, Sherman Sr., is from the Native American tribe of Coeur d'Alene.
As the wild west opened, so did new opportunities for American to strike it rich. But with the wild west opening up for the Americans, Indian lands were being encroached for railroads and homesteads. Indians were being pushed into reservations, their children sent to assimilation schools such a the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. In the horrors of American assimilation targeted at young Native American children, many children would face the struggle of losing their identity or face punishment of resisting assimilation. In the assimilation stories of Zitkala Sa’s Impressions of an Indian Childhood and Sherman Alexie’s Indian Education, tells the tale of their childhood experience being integrated into “American culture”. Alexie and Sa describe their own experience
Despite the negative stereotype of American Indians, the objections and disapproval of fellow Natives, and the criticism of others, Sherman Alexie went on to become a successful writer that has inspired many. Alexie overcame many obstacles that would have deterred him from his goal, but he was able to remain steadfast and continue on in his pursuit of writing. As a result, he has published many literary works that include several short stories, poems, and a variety of novels. He allows his culture to seep into his writing, and continues to inspire young American Indians who also desire the path of knowledge.
Malala Yousafzai and Sherman Alexie are both representations of those who unfortunately do not experience the same and simple journey towards education as most of the world does. In their works, “He Named Me Malala” and “Superman and Me”, Malala and Alexie respectively share their unique experience with the aspect of education that is so common to us. Their journey is full of ups and down, pushes and pulls and successes and failures. It defines a significant part of who they were, are and have become later in life. Their journey while similar on the surface, also was very different when dug deeper.
In the novel, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, nine distinct stories are told that depict families or people of Indian descent who experience different situations and circumstances that affect their lives. Many themes arise throughout the stories, but one that is prevalent through two specific stories, Mrs.Sen’s and Interpreter of Maladies, is the idea of cultural assimilation. Mrs.Sen’s and Interpreter of Maladies both portray the idea of cultural assimilation, but in different ways. Mrs.Sen’s is an example of a woman who resisted cultural assimilation in order to preserve her Indian heritage, while Interpreter of Maladies is a story that depicts a family who have fallen victim to cultural assimilation, thus losing a sense of connection to their Indian roots and being conformed into American culture. Lahiri uses the recurring motif of physical objects and actions to illustrate the various effects cultural assimilation has on certain people.
The novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian is not simply written. The author Sherman Alexie, uses several words like articulate, hormonal, and decrepit which displays that the novel could be read by people of all ages. This novel is wonderfully written so that people of every socioeconomic status can relate to real-world problems like poverty, racism, death and substance abuse. Alexie uses simple language to convey the thoughts that are actually inside people’s minds. For instance, in the first chapter of the book, the author introduces Arnold to the world (Alexie, 2007).
They are trying to save their lives.” Although Sherman Alexie’s success seems as if it has only opened up doors for himself it did not, it opened up doors for other Indian kids that are still on the reservation. When Sherman Alexie wrote his books and poems the kids on the reservation read them. They gave them hope, he gave them a reason to fight for their lives the way he did. Those kids too started to write their own short stories and found the same joy in learning that Sherman Alexie did.
Without this listing method the reader would be left without crucial detail of Alexie's harsh life as a Native. The syntax used in Superman and Me by Sherman Alexie achieved meaningful writing and powerful message. The use of simple sentences and enumeration in his essay accentuates his true struggle and drive to overcoming
In the essay “Superman and Me”, the author, Sherman Alexie recalls the time he first learned to read. He talks about his Indian culture and the perception of people like himself. He also discusses his childhood and the outcome of learning to read. The reoccurring theme of the essay is the love of reading. The author used various literacy devices to express the feelings of empowerment, happiness and the necessity that came with learning to read.
Writer Sherman Alexie has a knack of intertwining his own problematic biographical experience with his unique stories and no more than “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” demonstrates that. Alexie laced a story about an Indian man living in Spokane who reflects back on his struggles in life from a previous relationship, alcoholism, racism and even the isolation he’s dealt with by living off the reservation. Alexie has the ability to use symbolism throughout his tale by associating the title’s infamy of two different ethnic characters and interlinking it with the narrator experience between trying to fit into a more society apart from his own cultural background. However, within the words themselves, Alexie has created themes that surround despair around his character however he illuminates on resilience and alcoholism throughout this tale.
Sherman Alexie uses a combination of reality and fiction in order to show the reader what he thinks the lives of people on the Spokane Indian Reservation was like. In regards to what differentiates the fiction from the non-fiction of the stories you could look at present day Native American Reservations. Some reservations are still plagued with alcoholism, and poverty of the past. While the characters and stories are just vessels to deliver the message and show what Sherman Alexie portrayed the reservation live to be. The reaction and impact that this has on the reader is the same as the age-old use of story telling.
Overcoming a challenge, not giving up, and not being afraid of change are a few themes demonstrated in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Perhaps the most prominent theme derived from the novel is defying the odds, or in other words rising above the expectations of others. Junior Spirit exemplifies this theme throughout the entirety of the book. As Junior is an Indian, he almost expects that he will never leave the reservation, become an alcoholic, and live in poverty like the other Indians on the reservation—only if he sits around and does not endeavor to change his fate. When Junior shares the backstory of his parents, he says that his mother and father came from “poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people, all the way back to the very first poor people” (11).