Thursday, September 13, 2007

simple eloquence

One of my favorite authors, Sherman Alexie was in town last night. And he completely rocked.

If you don't know who he is, then you should. He is a prominent Native American author who has written some amazing books, but he might be best known for writing the screenplay for Smoke Signals.

I am having some of my students read one of his more recent books called Flight. Its about a half Native American foster child dealing with his own reality and his past.

He is know for his frankness about oppression of Native Americans and he deals with many disparaging stereotypes like alcoholism and casinos with humor and satire. He was no different at Bookshop Santa Cruz.

He started by making fun of Santa Cruz in a light-hearted manner. He talked about how its the only place you can find street performers offering tarot cards for money. He then said that he has some issues with the fact that his predominant audience is college educated white women, there was uncomfortable laughter when we all looked around.

He came back around to say that without capitalism, brown people, minorities would not be succeeding in the arts and that it is one of the powerful tools against oppression.

He was abruptly frank with the audience but in a very loving way. I have to say I was very nervous to talk to him, but he was very kid to me.

I have heard about past experiences where he will not come to a place to talk, unless he gets to work with the native community, and looking around the room at the bookstore, I realized that Santa Cruz doesn't have a very strong Native Community.

Here is one of his poems:


Buffalo Bill opens a pawn shop on the reservation
right across the border from the liquor store
and he stays open 24 hours a day,7 days a week

and the Indians come running in with jewelry
television sets, a VCR, a full-lenght beaded buckskin outfit
it took Inez Muse 12 years to finish. Buffalo Bill

takes everything the Indians have to offer, keeps it
all catalogues and filed in a storage room. The Indians
pawn their hands, saving the thumbs for last, they pawn

their skeletons, falling endlessly from the skin
and when the last Indian has pawned everything
but his heart, Buffalo Bill takes that for twenty bucks

closes up the pawn shop, paints a new sign over the old
charges the Indians five bucks a head to enter.

Sherman Alexie

1 comment:

  1. Smoke Signals is a great movie and that poem is amazing. I will definitely check out more of his work. I wish I could have been at Bookshop...adding to the population of college educated white women...