The Other in Sherman Alexi’s work

Above are the links to the works of Sherman Alexi  which I will be discussing.

In his novels, Sherman Alexi focuses a lot on the concept of “otherness”.  Though he doesn’t out right mention this term, for the purposes of this post I will define it as being or identifying as  anything other than society’s accepted normal.  Sherman uses his stream of consciousness narrative form in these works to portray the thoughts and experiences of those who are perceived as different.  In my opinion that is a monumental part of why middle schools implement teaching his work in their curriculum, or at least why mine did.

Sherman wrote The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian from the perspective of a high school boy’s thought diary.  This boy was native american, and had a condition called Hydrocephalus which gives him a bit of a handicap, vision issues, and is overall an awkward underdog.  The novel highlights how he is bullied and mistreated, and how making any headway in life is harder for him systematically.  Alexi comments a lot on privilege in his works.  The main character in this novel becomes good enough at basketball that he is transferred to an all white school off the reservation where he meets a girl who is also an other.  She has bulimia.  Sherman highlights that being in a mixed relationship caused even more issues for the protagonist.  Everything was harder than it could be based on the kid’s identity.  Pointing out these differences in ability like he does through wit and sassy, sardonic monologues from the mind of a teenage boy draws in a young audience and makes them more willing to recognize and learn the lessons he is highlighting.

In his second work, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, Alexi pays even more homage to life on an indian reservation and how difficult it is to be non whites in a society that has systematically set “others” up to fail.  He highlights a corrupt BIA, and a history of poverty and alcoholism as well as the cycle of hope and apathy regarding the youth of the reservation.  Alexi provokes thought regarding those who identify in different ways in american society.  He emphasizes racism and need for change where there is no effort to make one.  He uses his narrative style to say some heavy things about how terrible society and life can be to and for Native American’s while providing comic relief that makes you cringe, sweat, and laugh all at the same time.  The jokes and comments made in his works are funny, true, and eye opening. He doesn’t provide means to or suggestions as to how to fix these situations.  That is not the point.  The point is to make his non “other” audience cringe and feel just as helpless to change as the Indians he write’s about.  Through the jokes he leaves them hanging hoping for something to smile about rather than laugh nervously about.  It is intended to provoke thought and the inspire the change necessary to better those who are different. He provides no answers for free just as society gives those who are different nothing that they don’t work twice as hard for.

Author: Hannah Neumann

Housing & Residential Educ