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Sherman Alexie, Jr.



Sherman Alexie, Jr.
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 8 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   11.5

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    akin, commencement, following, juror, screenplay, prestigious, adviser, earning, stand-up, contemporary, honorary, currently, audio, recording, recognition, conclusion
     content words:    Sherman J., Spokane Indian Reservation, John Steinbeck, When Alexie, Reardan High, Native American, Absolutely True Diary, Part-time Indian, Gonzaga University, Washington State University


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Sherman Alexie, Jr.
By Jamie Kee
  

1     Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., a writer and a Spokane and Coeur d'Alene Indian, was born in October of 1966. He grew up in Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Alexie was born hydrocephalic, meaning water on the brain, and required surgery at six months. The doctors didn't expect him to survive. When he did survive, the doctors then predicted that he would have severe mental damage. Despite having no mental disabilities, Alexie did suffer from many side effects, such as seizures, that lasted throughout his childhood. Regardless of the difficult start, Alexie was reading by age three. By age five, he read such novels as The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Growing up, Alexie admired athletes like most young males. Yet unlike most young males, he admired writers as much as athletes. John Steinbeck was one of his earliest heroes because he wrote about misfits, something Alexie often felt akin to while growing up. Sadly, Alexie stood out because of his differences and was teased by other children.
 
2     When he was a teenager, Alexie understood the importance of attending a high school off the reservation. He came to this conclusion when he saw his mother's name in a textbook assigned to him. When Alexie was able to attend Reardan High, about twenty miles from Wellpinit, he found himself the only Native American in the school. Fortunately, Alexie excelled academically and athletically. His experiences at Reardan High were the inspiration for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Alexie's first young adult novel.
 
3     After graduating from high school in 1985, Alexie moved on to college. He first attended Gonzaga University in Washington and, after two years, transferred to Washington State University (WSU). His initial plans were to become a doctor, but the human anatomy class made him faint. When he attended a poetry workshop at WSU and was encouraged by his poetry teacher, Alexie realized his future. He graduated from WSU with a degree in American Studies, and in 1991, Alexie received the Washington State Arts Commission Poetry Fellowship. The following year he received the National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship.

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