Sherman Alexie Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Sherman Alexie
Photo © Rob Casey

Sherman Alexie

How to pronounce Sherman Alexie: sher-mn a-lexie

An interview with Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie discusses the short-story form and how his reading audience has changed over the years.

Why did you choose to publish new and selected stories now?
I published my first book of poems, The Business of Fancydancing, in 1992, so I thought I such do something special to mark my twenty-year publishing career. And also to honor my twenty-year relationship with Grove Press. In this digital era, I also loved the idea of having a thick, heavy book of mine sitting on the shelves. I wanted it to be physically and creatively substantial. I wanted it to be, yes, an old-fashioned tome.

You are a prolific writer of poetry, novels, screenplays, and recently, young adult books, but stories seem to be a favorite form of yours. Why?
I love writing stories because they seem to be a perfect blend of the brevity of poems and the extended narrative of novels. If the novel is a marathon and the poem is a sprint then the short story is the 800-meter run, which, by the way, is probably the most painful race to run. So I guess I like writing short stories because it's painful.

Do you have a favorite one in Blasphemy? One old, one new?
My favorite new story is "Cry, Cry, Cry," which returns to the Spokane Indian Reservation, and is just as tragic as many of my early stories, but also offers, if not redemption, then the hope of redemption. My favorite old story is "War Dances," which is, with its experimental form and structure combined with intense family dynamics, just damn good.

Who is your favorite short-story writer?
Lorrie Moore. So funny amidst so much pain.

How have your subject matters changed, or not, since your first collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, was published twenty years ago?
I started out writing stories exclusively about Spokane Reservation Indians. But over the years, as I have spent more years living off my reservation, my stories have become more about urban Indians and are also more culturally diverse—including stories that focus on non-natives and others that don't identify through race because it isn't relevant in that particular narrative.

Have you seen your audience change over the last twenty years?
Twenty years ago my audience was primarily college-educated, middle-class white women. Today it's primarily college-educated, middle-class white women. They remain the group most likely to cross real and imaginary borders and read the stories of an Indian boy. That said, I think I have, in many ways, moved from being a literary outsider to being an auxiliary member of the literati.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

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