Sherman Alexie: A Stand Up Guy

This year, Multnomah County Library selected two books by Sherman Alexie- Ten Little Indians and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian for their Everybody Reads community-wide reading project. The first is a collection of short stories for adults while the second is his National Book Award winning novel for young adults- and personally one of my favorite books ever.

Sherman Alexie’s a writer who’s been recommended to me for the longest time. When I read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” a few years ago, I liked how relatable the main character was. While this followed a similar arc to many coming of age stories out there, of the protagonist persevering through whatever challenges came their way and ended up being better for them, this was somehow different and refreshing.

With its strong but honest language and a lot of the subjects covered, I can see why certain groups may be offended with the book and may want it banned. But I think that’s what a great story does. It makes us uncomfortable in its ability to mirror our lives and ourselves in its pages.

I was instantly hooked when I picked up “Ten Little Indians.” I just wanted to stay home and read through the whole thing but I also wanted to take the time to enjoy each of the stories before going on to the next one. I was impressed by how each story sounded different yet there were some things that were mentioned or touched upon repeatedly. Each one was better than the last.

I was fortunate enough to see him speak for Literary Arts’ Everybody Reads lecture. I love how in Portland writers can feel like rock stars, the way people sell out these kinds of events on a regular basis. And he didn’t disappoint.

The lecture started out with a drum circle and dance performance before Multnomah County Library Director Vailey Oehlke talked about Everybody Reads and the role of books in generating conversations within a community. Literary Arts Executive Director Andrew Proctor introduced Sherman Alexie by sharing one of the writer’s quotes from his essay “Superman and Me” of how through books, reading, and writing, “I was trying to save my life.”

Hearing Sherman Alexie speak was like having his books come to life. He talked exactly as he wrote. I saw the autobiographical parts in the fictional stories he shared in his books. Hearing Sherman Alexie speak was like going to a stand up performer’s show. He joked about not being the next Pope and that eventually led to him telling the teenage students in the audience to wear condoms. He called the students another word but I don’t want to write it here. And, as random as those two topics are, he somehow made them make sense.

It was a little preview of what we could expect from him. Through many tangents, he talked about his childhood of being sick, poor, invisible, and lost. He made fun of everyone in the audience- but mostly of himself. He made everyone uncomfortable with his uncensored words and improvised sign language. He made us laugh but also made us think. (Seeing him crack up at his own jokes was amusing.) I liked how he uses humor to deliver a serious message by making them stand out in contrast to one another.

Two things he said really impressed me. The first was “the quality of your life is determined by how willing you are to leave your traditions behind.” This tied in to his belief of evolution, of how progress is made by basically someone saying “Fuck this shit!” to his circumstances and moving to somewhere unknown and perhaps greater. Leaving his reservation to attend a primarily white school was an example of this which yielded to his realization that he was “indigenous to the land but an immigrant to the culture.” He has a mastery of words I can only dream to have a fraction of!

I can go on forever but I won’t. The night was incredible. I know I’ll be reading more of Sherman Alexie in the future!

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Smoke Signals: The Literature and Culture of Native America

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I recently checked out the current- Smoke Signals: The Literature and Culture of Native America– over at Central’s Collins Gallery.

“Featuring highlights from the John Wilson Special Collections enhanced by historical items and artifacts provided by the Native American Youth & Family Center, this exhibition offers audiences an inside look at Native American culture and traditions.”- from the website

There were photographs by Edward S. Curtis, traditional dresses, jewelry, and baskets, and books and broadsides from various Native American writers, including Everybody Reads author Sherman Alexie.

Broadside for "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian"

Broadside for “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”

The exhibit runs until March 24th. It’s worth checking out!

Everybody Reads 2013: Book Reviews

Are you participating in this year’s Everybody Reads?

This year, Multnomah County Library selected two books by Sherman Alexie– Ten Little Indians” and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” The first is a collection of short stories for adults while the second is his National Book Award winning novel for young adults- and personally one of my favorite books ever.

Image courtesy of Sherman Alexie's website

Image courtesy of Sherman Alexie’s website


Official Summary: Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Alexie’s YA debut, released in hardcover to instant success, receiving seven starred reviews, hitting numerous bestseller lists, and winning the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

My Review: Sherman Alexie’s a writer who’s been recommended to me for the longest time. When I read “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” a few years ago, I liked how relatable the main character was. While this followed a similar arc to many coming of age stories out there, of the protagonist persevering through whatever challenges came their way and ended up being better for them, this was somehow different and refreshing.

With its strong but honest language and a lot of the subjects covered, I can see why certain groups may be offended with the book and may want it banned. But I think that’s what a great story does. It makes us uncomfortable in its ability to mirror our lives and ourselves in its pages.

indians
Official Summary: Sherman Alexie is one of our most acclaimed and popular writers today. With Ten Little Indians, he offers nine poignant and emotionally resonant new stories about Native Americans who, like all Americans, find themselves at personal and cultural crossroads, faced with heartrending, tragic, sometimes wondrous moments of being that test their loyalties, their capacities, and their notions of who they are and who they love.

In Alexie’s first story, “The Search Engine,” Corliss is a rugged and resourceful student who finds in books the magic she was denied while growing up poor. In “The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above,” an intellectual feminist Spokane Indian woman saves the lives of dozens of white women all around her to the bewilderment of her only child. “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” starts off with a homeless man recognizing in a pawn shop window the fancy-dance regalia that was stolen fifty years earlier from his late grandmother.

Even as they often make us laugh, Alexie’s stories are driven by a haunting lyricism and naked candor that cut to the heart of the human experience, shedding brilliant light on what happens when we grow into and out of each other.

My Review: I was instantly hooked when I picked up “Ten Little Indians.” I just wanted to stay home and read through the whole thing but I found out that I also wanted to take the time to enjoy each of the stories before going on to the next one.

I was impressed by how each story sounded different yet there were some things that were mentioned or touched upon repeatedly.

I submitted the following haiku (as part of their contest) and I wanted to share it because it describes how I felt about the book:

Alexie’s stories-
Each one better than the last-
Make me go “Pow! Wow!”

I highly recommend reading any or both of these books. And check out the Everybody Reads page to get more out of this community-wide reading project!

I know I’ll be reading more of Sherman Alexie in the future!

Minuscule & Movable: An Exhibition of Pocket-Sized & Pop-Up Books

Enjoy these pictures of the recent exhibit at Central Library’s Collins Gallery! (Click to enlarge.)

Minuscule & Movable: An Exhibition of Pocket-Sized & Pop-Up Books” is on display until February 3rd during regular hours.

Don’t miss the Closing Reception on Wednesday, January 23rd, 6-7:30PM.

This is fun for the whole family.

Happy New Year! Let’s All Read Together!

Starting Wednesday, January 2nd, you’ll be able to stop in at any Multnomah County Library location and pick up your copies of this year’s Everybody Reads titles by Sherman Alexie- “Ten Little Indians” and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” The first is a collection of short stories for adults while the second is his National Book Award winning novel for young adults- and personally one of my favorite books ever.

Read the books. Share the books.

Then, participate in any of the events planned throughout the months of February and March culminating in “An Evening with Sherman Alexie” at the Arlene Schnitzer Hall on March 12th!

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Read about our write up of last year’s Everybody Reads selection- Heidi Durrow’s “The Girl Who Fell from the Sky.”

Find out what other community-wide reading programs are going on this year.

Stay tuned for more information on these events.

And tell us, will you be participating in this year’s Everybody Reads?

Ring in the New Year by Showing Your Support to the Library

The end of the year is a great time to reflect. Take a second to think about what the library means to you. What has it done for you lately? How has it enriched your life?

If you can, support these two wonderful organizations that help Multnomah County Library be as great at is.

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Ways to Give through the Friends of the Multnomah County.

1. Make an end of the year donation
2. Give a holiday gift membership to the Friends
3. Shop at the Friends Store in the Central Library or their online book store
4. Donate used books
5. Like their Twitter page
6. Friend them on Facebook
7. Volunteer with Friends

Visit their website to do all these things.

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Ways to Give through the Library Foundation.

1. Make a gift that makes a difference
2. Leave a legacy that expresses your values
3. Like their Twitter page
4. Friend them on Facebook
5. Give through Willamette Week’s Give!Guide (until December 31st)

Visit their website to do all these things.

Thank you for reading Library Hopping in PDX!

Have a happy new year!

I Read, You Read, We All Read Together! 2013 Edition

“There is no doubt in the power of books and libraries to bring people and communities together. In 1998, famous Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl initiated a city-wide reading program “If All of Seattle Read the Same Book.” Its success led to various off shoots throughout the years and across the nation in which readers come together to read the featured title or participate in related events like film screenings, performances, author appearances, and really just about anything that can be thought up!

The wonderful libraries in our surrounding counties are gearing up with their own versions of “One City, One Book”. We’ve compiled a list of these programs. Click on each one to get more information.”

That was from earlier this year. How time flies! You can get a head start with these 2013 titles.

Multnomah County Library’s Everybody Reads (11 years!)- “The Everybody Reads 2013 author is Sherman Alexie. The 11th annual community reading project will feature two works by one author: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, for young adults, and Ten Little Indians, a collection of short stories, for adults.”

North Plains’ One Book One Community (6th year!)- Mink River by Brian Doyle

Lake Oswego Reads (7th year!)- Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron

Oregon City’s Community Wide Read (5th year!)- Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

West Linn Reads– Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

Portland Community College (PCC Reads)- Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok- I included this because I thought it was cool they have a similar program. (Plus, they do have libraries!) Previous selections included “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by SHerman Alexie (2010), “The Girl Who Fell From the Sky” by Heidi Durrow (2011), and “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot (2012).

Did we miss any? What do you think of this year’s selections?