Native American writer Sherman Alexie shared his wry perspective on life, politics, America and education with a packed auditorium at BGSU Firelands Nov. 10.
The final speaker in Firelands’ All-College Book Series. Alexie kept the audience of about 300—including a group from Pittsburgh—laughing throughout his presentation, even though the subject matter was often painful and serious. Describing himself as an angry person who uses humor to vent his rage, he spoke about his upbringing on the Spokane Coeur d’Alene Indian reservation, where his childhood was marked by serious illnesses, poverty and his parents’ alcoholism.
That prolonged early contact with doctors, however, made him realize the importance of education and reading. He told his listeners he felt that one’s happiness in life is directly related to the number of books in one’s house.
From an early age, he pursued his interest in education, becoming the only student from his reservation to attend high school in the nearby white farm town. The decision earned him the resentment of his classmates and a black eye from his best friend.
Tall and gangly and with a speech impediment from his birth defects, Alexie was taunted and beaten up at his new school but, he said, he “joined a new tribe,” and went on to college and renown as an author, poet, screen writer and humorist.
Though his success was hard won, he told his listeners to view every circumstance as an opportunity and, above all, enjoy life.