Stand Up and Be Heard!

Author Sherman Alexie’s latest work, “War Dances,” has been called heartbreaking and hilarious, brazen and wise — and he has been called a rock star among writers. Those same words can be used to describe the well-known writer’s life, from brain surgery as an infant, to schoolyard taunting and a brief, but memorable, battle with alcohol.

On March 14, 2011, Alexie spoke about his life and work at a lecture in Ives Concert Hall. Prior to the lecture, there was a screening of “Smoke Signals,” an independent film written by Alexie. A reception and book signing followed the presentation. The evening’s events honored the life and scholarship of the late Professor of English Dr. Steven D. Neuwirth, a specialist in early American literature and American history who made significant contributions to the university’s academic program development from the 1980s until his retirement in 2003.

“Sherman Alexie is a ‘rock star’ among his generation of writers for all of the right reasons,” said Dr. Abbey Zink, WCSU Interim Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “He exploded onto the literary scene by writing about what he knew best — life on the Spokane Indian Reservation — in ways that are profound, but accessible and witty, yet poignant. Students in my classes over the years have connected with his voice and his explorations of identity. He also is known as a fantastic speaker.”

Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation with hopes of becoming a medical doctor, a dream that was set aside after he discovered a love and talent for poetry at Washington State University. In 1991, the prolific writer received the Washington State Arts Commission Poetry Fellowship and a year later was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship. “War Dances” won the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

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Clockwise from top:
An animated Sherman Alexie speaks to the Ives Concert Hall crowd.

(l-r) Margaret Sullivan, widow of the late Professor of English Dr. Steven D. Neuwirth; Alexie; Interim Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Dr. Abbey Zink and Chief Diversity Officer Carolyn Lanier