The odds were against Sherman Alexie on that day in October 1966. Not only was he born a minority, but he was also hydrocephalic. At the age of 6 months, he had a brain operation, but was not expected to live. Though he pulled through, doctors predicted he would be severely mentally retarded. Fortunately, they were wrong, but he did suffer through seizures and wet his bed throughout his childhood ("What" 1).
Rather than being called "Native American," which he feels is a "guilty white liberal term," he prefers to be called Indian. He is a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, in fact, and grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. To avoid being picked on by the other reservation kids, he spent most of his time indoors, where he developed a love for reading. But as he grew older, alcoholism, which plagues most reservations, found its way to Alexie, and he suffered this disease for five years until he became sober at 23 ("What" 1).
He graduated high school with honors and originally planned to become a doctor until a fainting episode in a Human Anatomy class changed his mind. He attended Gonzaga University on scholarship and graduated in American Studies from Washington State. He then received two consecutive Fellowships in 1991 and 1992, and shortly thereafter wrote six poetry and poem/short story books. Two of these, The Business of Fancy Dancing and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, earned him literary awards (What" 1). By 1998, his list of accomplishments grew to include Reservation Blues (1995), which earned him Granta’s Best of Young Novelists, the Before Columbus Foundations Book Award, and the Murray Morgan Prize. Indian Killer (1996), his second novel, was The New York Times Notable Book and People’s Best of Pages. He is also responsible for writing the screenplay for the movie Smoke Signals that won two awards at The Sundance Film Festival in 1998.
Most of Alexie’s writing reflects life on the reservations today. The poverty, oppression, commodity food, and alcoholism are the main themes in his stories. The title story of his collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, however, deals with the life of an Indian man who has left the reservation to live in Seattle and some of the obstacles he faces in the white world. We never know the main character’s name, probably because he feels like a nameless nobody in this strange world. He is alienated and told that he doesn’t belong even
though he is the true aborigine. When a policeman pulls him over one night and asks him "where are you supposed to be?" (182), he clearly shows his alienation by thinking, "I knew there were plenty of places I wanted to be, but none where I was supposed to be" (182). He realizes he is "making people nervous" (183) because he doesn’t "fit the profile of the neighborhood" (183) in which he is driving. But it isn’t just that neighborhood, or any other nice neighborhood. He wants to tell...