Many prominent authors are just born to be authors. Their life at some point act as their motivations to indulge in their professions. Among many authors who were inspired by their life experience to write is Sherman Joseph Alexie Jr. His early life was never smooth but used the challenges as the drivers in presenting most of his themes with the help of several stylistic devices. The overview of his biography gives one a better guide to understanding the reason behind his concentration on themes of poverty, violence, and alcoholism.
Sherman Alexie's Biography
Sherman Joseph Alexie is a renowned author who whose works have been recognized with some winning awards. Sherman Alexie was born on October 7th, 1966 in Spoken Reservation India. He was a son to Sherman Joseph Sr. and Lilian Agnes. He grew up in a family with six other children. Sherman never experienced a smooth childhood as he had a serious health problem. He was diagnosed with hydrocephalus as an infant and was required to undergo brain surgery. As a result, his head grew abnormally making him have an extra-large head at the tender age of six months. This made him acquire his nickname "the Globe." His parents feared for his life since several doctors predicted death or otherwise, he would suffer mental disability. However, he survived but still suffered frequent seizures that needed dedicated medical attention. As a result, they lived in poverty since most of their income was channeled to medical treatments.
After the long battle with sickness, he was stable enough and was enrolled to the reservation school. His life was not easy at the school since other students made fun on his big head, but he learned to survive. Later he joined Rearden High School. At this stage, he enjoyed his high school life as he was perfect in extracurricular activities, sports and more importantly, he excelled in his academics. As a result, he got a scholarship to Gonzaga University for a medical course in 1985 but dropped out in 1985 after failed in anatomy class (TFP para2). He shifted to law, but still found no refuge in it. This made him so stressed up and decided to find consolation in heavy drinking. However, this could not satisfy his anxiety, causing him to shift to creative writing at Washington State University. He studied poetry which was taught by a great poet Alex Kuo, a person who was his inspiration to start his writing.
Sherman Joseph authored various literary genre including poetry, novels, and short stories. For instance, his first poems were 'The Business of Fancydancing' and 'I would Steal Horses' which were released in 1992. The following year he released two other collections; 'Old Shirts New Skins' and 'First Indian In the Moon.' He later wrote his first novel 'Reservation Blues,' a book that he developed characters to reflect on his own life. The content of the novel was almost a clear picture of his life and the environment that he had grown in.
Notably, most of his works primarily covered themes of poverty, racism, despair, violence, and alcoholism. These themes were influenced by his personal life and issues faced by the American Indians. As such, he used several literary stylistic devices to bring his themes to the understanding of the reader. Alexie's readings mostly invoke sadness to the reader as he explains the misfortunes the characters experienced but at the same time blending it with humor and pop culture, making the reader have a sense of understanding, respect, and compassion.
Firstly, the theme of alcoholism is prevalent in most of his works. Alcoholism was the order of the day of many Indian Americans living in the reservation (Alexie 18). Almost everyone was a drunkard including Alexie's father, a situation that made his mother to struggle and do many casual works to sustain her family (Alexie 18). Alexie himself was a drunkard at some point in his life when he felt almost giving up with his studies and was still struggling with the situation even in his later life. This has therefore influenced him to write about alcoholism in several of his works.
For instance, a short story in the novel The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight Heaven, he uses his descriptive abilities to tell of a boy who was talented in basketball, but his promising talent was brought down by alcohol. He also metaphorically gave alcohol several names to alcohol including, "a bottle of imagination" and "a bottle of fortified courage" in the short story; "What You Pawn I Will Redeem" of the Ten Little Indians (Alexie, 2005, 174). He uses the above names to acknowledge the harmful effects that the drug has on the individual and tries to discourage its use (Hossain 392).
Poverty is the other theme common in most of his work. Several reasons influenced him to write about the theme, not only the several experiences but also the lives of his fellow Indian Americans. Sherman had bitter experiences caused by poverty as early as at the beginning of his life. Firstly, he was an intelligent child who learned his reading skills at the age of two but became the sources of his mockery by other students who envied his intelligence (Christie 40). They called him names due to his enlarged skull, a condition that amerced is family to a pool of poverty. Furthermore, he had a hard life at home due to his absentee and alcoholic father, and other seven children who relied on the overworking and low paid mother. Poverty was the source of his social rejection. He therefore addresses the issue in his novel Reservation Blues different characters.
The author succumbs several domestic violence caused by the misunderstandings between his parents. Additionally, the Indians were killed like animals by the white men who wanted to grab their land. The author, therefore, uses the above reference to bring out his theme of violence into the paper. In his novel Reservation Blues, he uses imagery through his character Big Mom to tell of how men in uniform were killing horses without pity (Meredith and Alexie 446). The above incidence indicates the brutality of the white men to the Indians and that the effects still affect the Indians to the present day. The imagery is also seen in the "rotting father" exemplified by his drunk character Victor who falls asleep and dreams of his dead biological father, to have passed on in his house only to be discovered two weeks later.
It is evident that Sherman had been through a lot in his life. Surprisingly, he took his experiences positively and used them as a guide to the themes that he presented in his works. He addresses the theme of poverty which can be linked to the life of poverty that they lived as a family. He addresses alcoholism, a behavior his father, his community and himself suffered. Lastly, he addresses violence, a problem his family faced as well as the community from the white men. It is therefore indisputable that Sherman's works were motivated by his personal experiences, his family life and the race that he grew in.
Alexie, Sherman. "The Alcoholic Love Poems." Callaloo, vol. 17, no. 1, 1994, p. 18.
Christie, Stuart. "Blood Legacies: Pathology and Power in Works by Sherman Alexie and A. A. Carr." Plural Sovereignties and Contemporary Indigenous Literature, 2009, pp. 39-72.
Hossain, Amir. "Sherman Alexie's Literary Works as Native American Social Realistic Projections." European Scientific Journal April 2016 edition vol.12, No.11 ISSN: 1857 - 7881 (Print) e - ISSN 1857- 7431 p 391. Accessed Dec 2. 2018. dx.doi.org/10.19044/esj.2016.v12n11p381
Meredith, Howard, and Sherman Alexie. "Reservation Blues." World Literature Today, vol. 70, no. 2, 1996, p. 446.
The Famous People. Sherman Alexie Biography 2018. Accessed Dec 2. 2018. https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/sherman-Alexie-4128.php.
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