National Writing Project

Sherman Alexie in the Classroom

Date: 2008

Summary: Sherman Alexie in the Classroom, a volume in NCTE's High School Literature Series, examines ways to teach the works of Alexie, widely considered today's premiere Native American writer. Heather Bruce, director of the Montana Writing Project, coauthored the book.


Coauthored by Heather E. Bruce, director of the Montana Writing Project, Anna E. Baldwin, and Christabel Umphrey, Sherman Alexie in the Classroom uses excerpts from Alexie's writings, pertinent literary criticism, and student work samples to guide teachers who want to learn about Alexie and teach his work.

The book covers Alexie's film Smoke Signals; the short story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven; several of Alexie's poems; the novels Reservation Blues and Flight; and the National Book Award winner The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Bruce is also the author of Literacies, Lies, and Silences.

Excerpt from Book

Many of our students find . . . much of Alexie's work difficult because of the inherent accusations Alexie is making about Euro-American colonization and occupation of Indian lands and the resulting genocide of America's indigenous peoples. However, we, like Alexie, think the ongoing oppression of America's first peoples has continued long enough. Our only hope for social and political change lies in educating ourselves and our students and in dealing with the complexity of such issues. Alexie gives us food for thought and means for discussing these concerns with students, who might in turn be motivated to use their energies to take up different approaches toward Indian matters and toward ongoing conquest, war, and colonization undertakings in the future. We talk with our students about "white guilt," a problem with which many of our students struggle while reading Alexie. His humor gives them ways to contemplate the difficulties and to find some strategic resolutions to these problems.

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Order Sherman Alexie in the Classroom from the NCTE website.

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