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Sherman Alexie Chats About His Latest Anthology on Public Radio

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Two of Indian country’s most famous writers continue to make indelible marks on the literary scene—Sherman Alexie with his new-old short story collection Blasphemy(Grove Atlantic, 2012) and Louise Erdrich with The Round House, (HarperCollins, 2012) a novel that has been short-listed for a National Book Award.

Both books deal with themes familiar to American Indian readers—alcoholism, violence against Native women and the impunity associated with it, and escaping the cycle of poverty. Why the recurring themes? Alexie, Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, offered a succinct explanation in a recent interview with Public Radio’s Leonard Lopate.

Left to right: Iris Francisco and Maurianna Silk, both members of the Resilience AmeriCorps Tribal College Program. Francisco is serving at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota, working to expand community partnerships to further UTTC's efforts to gauge the local Native community’s needs when it comes to climate change resilience planning, outreach, and education into the future. Silk is serving at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, North Dakota, and is working to expand climate change awareness outreach to the adult and elder age brackets in the Standing Rock Sioux community, designing age appropriate outreach materials and presentations, and partnering with the tribal Environmental Protection Agency to schedule and hold events with climate change themes.

Sherman Alexie (Photo: AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“Well, we must remember, despite the idea that we beat the British and it stopped being a colony, the United States is a colony, and Native Americans are colonized people,” he said. “And like all colonized people across the world, we suffer from a loss of culture, loss of language, loss of tradition, loss of religion—and when you lose centuries of tradition, you are in incredible existential pain, and alcohol is a way to medicate.”

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Alexie has substituted writing for alcohol, having been sober since the age of 23. “I found other things to medicate myself with,” he told Lopate. “Writing. I used to be a binge drinker. Now I’m a binge writer.”

Listen to the full interview on the Leonard Lopate Show, listen to him read the story "Protest" from the new anthology, and stay tuned for more coverage of the book itself from ICTMN.