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Sherman Award-winning novelist Joseph Alexie Jr.’s works mostly come within the category of Native American literature. His writings are marked by themes that relate to the struggles that Native Americans experience, such as alcoholism, violence, poverty, and hopelessness. Alexie, who was born and raised on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington, had a very difficult upbringing. He had a major medical issue from birth that necessitated difficult surgery when he was barely a baby. Doctors had warned that the boy would not survive and that, even if he did, he might grow up with mental impairments. In addition to surviving, Alexie grew up to become a renowned poet and novelist. His childhood difficulties weren’t just health-related; being the son of an alcoholic, he also experienced domestic issues. He knew that he needed to leave the Spokane Reservation if he wanted to succeed in life because life there was difficult. Despite his health issues, he excelled in school and was awarded a scholarship to Gonzaga University. His initial goal was to become a doctor, but he switched to creative writing because anatomy lessons made him queasy. Prior to authoring short stories and novels, he first made his literary debut by composing poetry.

Early Childhood & Life

He was one of the six children born to Sherman Joseph Alexie, Sr., and Lillian Agnes on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He has multiple ancestries.

He had hydrocephalus at birth, which necessitated brain surgery when he was just six months old. It was explained to his parents that their son would not live and even if he did, he might experience severe mental impairments. Thankfully, he made it through.

His mother worked multiple jobs to maintain her children while his alcoholic father was generally absent during his formative years.

Throughout his early years, he experienced regular seizures and needed to take numerous medications to manage them.

After a while, he transferred to Rearden High School from the reservation school. Along with academics, he excelled in extracurricular activities, athletics, and other pursuits.

For his pre-med program at Gonzaga University in 1985, he received a scholarship. He was uncomfortable in anatomy lessons, so he had to give up his dream of becoming a doctor. He left school in 1987.

To pursue a creative writing degree, he enrolled at Washington State University. He enrolled in a class offered by eminent poet Alex Kuo, who chose him to be his protégé. He began writing poetry after studying it with a renowned scholar.

Both the National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship and the Washington State Arts Commission Poetry Fellowship were awarded to him.

Career of Sherman Alexie

The Business of Fancydancing: Stories and Poems, his debut collection of poetry, was released in 1992. The same year saw the release of “I Would Steal Horses.”

His writings mostly deal with Native Americans’ common difficulties, such as racism, poverty, and alcoholism. He had a way of expressing his serious thoughts in a lighthearted and hilarious way.

1993 saw the release of “Old Shirts and New Skins” and “First Indian on the Moon,” two additional poetry volumes.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, his debut prose book, was published in 1993. 22 related short stories with recurring characters made up the book.

His first full-length book, “Reservation Blues,” was released in 1995. In this novel, he expanded on the characters he had first presented in his collection of short stories.

He wrote the book “Indian Killer” in 1996, which is about a serial killer who kills and scalps white males in Seattle and incites racial violence and hatred among the locals.

He created the screenplay for the 1998 independent film “Smoke Signals,” which Chris Eyre co-produced and directed. The movie received numerous honors and awards.

In his 2002 film “The Business of Fancydancing,” which he also wrote and directed, the relationships and problems between two Spokane men who grew up together were examined.

A first-person narrative is used in the 2007 young adult book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Ellen Forney drew the illustrations for the novel, which was semi-autobiographical in nature.

Flight, a different book, was also released in 2007. It was centered on the life of a Native American youngster named Zits who, after experiencing numerous challenges as a foster child, decided to turn to violence.
He published “War Dances” as a collection of poems and short stories in 2010.

Bigger Works of Sherman Alexie

His best-known work is a collection of short stories titled “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” which focuses on the interactions between two Native American men who reside on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
His book, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” served as the inspiration for the screenplay for the independent movie “Smoke Signals.” The movie earned favorable reviews and was well welcomed at several film festivals.

Recognition & Achievements

His story collection “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” won the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Book of Fiction in 1993.

Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas gave him the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

Personal Legacy & Life

He has two boys and is married to Diane Tomhave.

He served on the founding board of Longhouse Media, a nonprofit that trains young Native Americans in filmmaking.

Sherman Alexie’s Net Worth

American novelist, poet, and filmmaker Sherman Alexie have a $1 million fortune. In October 1966, Sherman Alexie was born in Spokane, Washington. His works are well renowned for using his experiences as an American Indian and his lineage from many tribes as inspiration.


Because of his enormous head, he was given the moniker “The Globe” as a child.