Indigenous Own Voices after Sherman Alexie

By Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

I grew up on a steady diet of Island of the Blue Dolphins, Little House on the Prairie, Walk Two Moons, Julie of the Wolves, et cetera, stories with native content written by non-native authors. Before The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, I hadn’t read Cynthia Leitich Smith’s or Joseph Bruchac’s novels. But I had read Michael Dorris’ and Lousie Erdrich’s work for children, thanks to my love affair with Erdrich’s novels for adults. I hadn’t read any Indigenous Canadian authors writing for youth. Before The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, I offered my students and my children solely historical fiction about Indigenous identities and stories. Nothing contemporary, and so very little, sadly, Indigenous Own Voices.

Indigenous Own Voices Sherman Alexie Continue reading

Reading as a Collaborative Act: Sherman Alexie as Mentor

By Marie LeJeune and Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

Book cover for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThis week, we continue our exploration of authors as mentors—authors whose work and words contribute to our teaching of reading, writing, language, and culture. As we’ve mentioned in past weeks, we are interested in exploring a study of mentor authors whose work informs students as readers and writers but also as global citizens. We are now layering Marie’s framework for Mentor Author Studies with a framework for International Curriculum (Short, 2003).

This week we examine a mentor author study of Sherman Alexie, whose work we have shared with middle and high school students and their teachers. Although Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is his only novel deemed “young adult,” much of Alexie’s work is suitable for secondary study, including many of his poems, essays, short stories and novels. Continue reading