This news release describes past events and should be used for historical purposes only. Please note date of release.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield Hall 218
Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004
Sherman Alexie
To Speak April 19
phone (715) 836-4741
fax (715) 836-2900

MAILED: April 6, 2000

EAU CLAIRE — Writer and filmmaker Sherman Alexie, described as "one of the major lyric voices of our time" (The New York Times Book Review), will be presented on The Forum lecture series Wednesday, April 19, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
A strong voice of the American Indian community best known for writing the award-winning 1998 film "Smoke Signals," Alexie will speak at 7:30 p.m. in Schofield Auditorium.
Alexie's presentation, titled "Killing Indians: Myths, Lies and Exaggerations," will be followed by a question-and-answer session and a reception.
"Sherman Alexie is loquacious, arrogant, controversial and wickedly funny," reports the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star. "Sherman Alexie is a sweet, humble, basketball-playing geek who writes like an angel and reads like a demon, sometimes devouring up to 10 books a week. Sherman Alexie is a literary virtuoso, a prolific purveyor of poetry, novels, short stories and screenplays. He is also the hottest literary talent in Indian Country today [and] continues to galvanize an ever-burgeoning literary audience with a growing list of clever, witty, insightful works that showcase freshness and originality."
Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., was born in 1966. He is a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian (he prefers to be called an Indian, finding Native American a "guilty white liberal term") born and raised in the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Wash., about 50 miles from Spokane. His father held various jobs, including truck driver and logger, and his mother was a social worker.
Alexie was born hydrocephalic and underwent a brain operation at the age of six months but was not expected to survive. When he did beat the odds, doctors predicted he would live with severe mental retardation. Although spared this, he did suffer through seizures and bed-wetting throughout his childhood. Preferring to stay inside (or occasionally hide in the rocks on the reservation), he developed a love for reading, reading John Steinbeck as a five-year-old.
As a young adult, Alexie faced a new problem, alcoholism, which plagued his life for five years before he became sober at 23.
He attended high school at Reardan High where he was "the only Indian — except for the school mascot." Alexie graduated with honors and planned to be a doctor until he "fainted three times in human anatomy class and needed a career change." That change was fueled when Alexie stumbled into a poetry workshop at Washington State University in Pullman. He attended Gonzaga University in Spokane on a scholarship and graduated in American Studies from Washington State. Alexie received the Washington State Arts Commission Poetry Fellowship in 1991 and the National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship in 1992.
Soon after receiving his second fellowship, Alexie cranked out six poetry chapbooks and poem/short story books, including the award winners "The Business of Fancydancing" (1991) and "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" (1993). This put the total number of pieces of work, including pieces written for magazines and anthologies, at more than 300 poems, stories, essays and reviews.
His first novel, "Reservation Blues" (1995), got Alexie named one of Granta's Best of Young American Novelists and won him the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award and the Murray Morgan Prize. His second novel, "Indian Killer" (1996), was named one of People magazine's Best of Pages and a New York Times Notable Book.
Chris Eyre, a Cheyenne/Arapaho Indian, was a graduate student at New York University's film school when he read some of Alexie's work. Through a mutual friend they agreed to collaborate on a film project. The basis for the screenplay was "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona," a short story from "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven." Directed by Eyre, the film was financed by Shadow Catcher Entertainment for an undisclosed figure between $1 million and $5 million. Released as "Smoke Signals" at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, the movie won two awards and found a distributor, Miramax Films.
Miramax announced last summer that Alexie would adapt "Indian Killer" for the screen and direct the film. Alexie has since decided to adapt and direct "Reservation Blues," the magical story of an all-Indian Catholic rock-and-roll band and their journey from obscurity to near-fame. It is a comic tale of power, tragedy and redemption among today's generation of First Americans.
Alexie also is writing the screenplay for the movie adaptation of Timothy Truman's "Scout" and is adapting the book "Young Men and Fire" by Norman MacLean ("A River Runs Through It") into a screenplay.
Alexie's new book, "The Toughest Indian in the World," is a collection of short stories that will be published by Atlantic Monthly Press in May.
Admission is $7 for the public; $5 for those age 62 and over and UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff; or $3 for those age 17 and under and UW-Eau Claire students. Tickets are available at the University Service Center in Davies Center and will be sold at the door.
Patrons also may charge their tickets to MasterCard or Visa when they order by phone. Call the University Service Center, (715) 836-3727 — or, outside the immediate Eau Claire area, call toll-free (800) 949-UWEC. A $3 handling fee will be added to all telephone charge orders.
During the presentation, free parking will be available on campus in the Hibbard and Phillips parking lots.
The Forum is made possible by student funds allocated by the UW-Eau Claire Student Senate.

UWEC [Administrative Offices] [News Bureau]

Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 218
(715) 836-4741

Updated: April 6, 2000