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The Powwow at the End of the World

Sherman Alexie

Sherman Joseph Alexie (1966- ) was born in Spokane, Washington and raised in Wellpinit, a small town on the Spokane Indian reservation, located some fifty miles northwest of Seattle. One of six children, Alexi’s father was a member of the Coeur D’Alene tribe. His mother was a Spokane. Alexie attended Jesuit-run Gonzaga University in Spokane on a scholarship from 1985 to 1987, and then transferred to Washington State University in Pullman, where he began to write and publish in small literary magazines and where he earned a B.A. degree in 1991. Literary success came quickly. Within a year of graduation Alexie had published two books, The Business of Fancydancing (1992), a volume of poetry and stories which one a New York Times Notable Book award, and I Would Steal Horses (1992), a volume of poetry. Two volumes of poetry followed the next year: First Indian on the Moon (1993) and Old Shirts and New Skins (1993).

The major event of 1993, however, was the publication of Alexie’s first major collection of short stories, provocatively titled The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, containing twenty-two stories focusing on the problems and hardships of Indian life both on and off the reservation. Alexie’s book attracted widespread attention and marked him as a major figure in the rising generation of younger Indian writers. A first novel, Reservation Blues, appeared in 1995, and won an American Book Award. Since that time Alexie has published a second novel, Indian Killer (1996), a best seller which earned him another New York Times Notable Book citation, and a second volume of short stories, The Toughest Indian in the World (2000).

There have also been four additional volumes of poetry: Water Flowing Home (1995), The Summer of Black Widows (1996), The Man Who Loves Salmon (1998), , One Stick Song (2000), and Ten Little Indians (2003). Alexie’s story "This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" was first published in Esquire and then accepted for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories 1994. It also became the basis for Smoke Signals, the first Indian-made, Indian-directed, and Indian-written film ever distributed in the United States. Smoke Signals earned instant recognition at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, where it won both an Audience Award and a Filmmaker’s Trophy. His novel Indian Killer is also being developed into a film. Alexie currently makes his home in Seattle.

Author Links

The Official Site of Sherman Alexie
This site offers information about all aspects of Sherman Alexie and his work including appearances, a biography, awards, articles, and news.

Sherman Alexie-Modern American Poetry
On this site, visitors will find pictures, criticism, the author’s commentary on his work, a biography, and reviews.

Sherman Alexie Interview on YouTube
This video link provides access to an interview with Alexie at the Texas Book Festival in 2007.

Sherman Alexie and Smoke Signals
This interview with Alexie, following the release of the movie Smoke Signals, titled "Sending Cinematic Smoke Signals was conducted by Dennis West and Joan M. West and published in Cineaste 23.4 (Fall, 1998).

"The Powwow at the End of the World"


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