Being an accomplished Native American author of works such as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie has travelled to many places in order to promote his books. On Thursday, September 6th, he came to Champaign to do just that. Many of his readers showed up to meet him and learn more about Alexie’s life as a famous author.
The evening started with a meet-and-greet at the Illini Union Bookstore, where many people anxiously stood in line for their turn to talk to Sherman Alexie and get their books signed. With a lot of patience, he answered his readers’ questions, made a few jokes, and took pictures with them. He seemed pleased while interacting with his fans. When asked how being an author has changed the way he goes about life, Alexie said, “My job takes me all over the world, and so I’ve spent a lot more time in cities. In cities, the ethnicities are so broad and varied that people often think I’m whatever they are — I’m half of whatever they are. So, traveling has taught me that I’m really close to everybody, and that’s been pretty amazing. So, I don’t feel as isolated as I did in a small town.”
Two hours following the book signing, the author joined an even bigger number of fans, ranging from various different age groups, at the Illini Union Ballroom to promote his new book, Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories, which comes out October 2nd. With his spontaneous personality and compelling humor, Sherman Alexie engaged the audience with every story he told. From reading aloud some of his poems and the short story “This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” off his iPad to telling his own life stories, he made people consistently laugh and reflect on social issues around them. He vividly described his book tour traveling routine, which belied with humor the fact that famous authors have a very glamorous lifestyle. He talked about how uncomfortable airplane traveling can be and how his iPad and power bars have saved him from complete boredom in small-town hotels. After all, famous authors have a lot in common and are just like regular people, of course. Sherman Alexie’s talk lasted for about two hours.
After he was done telling stories, he opened up the room for a Q&A part of the evening. A good amount of people curiously asked him many things relating to his works and to his life. Sherman Alexie answered each and every one of them. After he finished answering questions, he thanked the audience for coming out and supporting him. Everyone, in turn, stood up and applauded him for a long time.
Sherman Alexie has touched the lives of a lot of people with his writing, including many Centennial students who have studied his work in English class during the beginning of their junior year. Centennial junior Jacqueline Corum was among the ones eager to get to see the author. She commented, “When I read Sherman Alexie’s novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I was amazed by the honesty and relatability in his writing. I was so looking forward to meeting him in person because I found it inspiring that he could write about a character, inspired by similar things he went through in his own childhood, with such an inspiring outlook on life, despite the hardships he went through.” It was great to have Sherman Alexie come to Champaign, and let’s hope he comes again many times during the course of his career.