Sherman Alexie

I recommend, if you ever get the chance and you aren’t easily offended, that you go hear Sherman Alexie read. Last night I had the opportunity to hear him at Butler University, and I don’t think I have ever heard a better speaker or reader in my life. One minute I was laughing, the next I was wondering who he was going to rant about next. My favorite moment for the evening was when a woman in the audience asked him: “What one thing do you want White American to know about Native American culture?” He asked all the Euro-Americans in the audience to raise their hands: “Now if you speak one of your native European tribal languages, keep your hand up. If you don’t put it down.” About twenty people still had their hands in the air: “Now put them back up. All you Euro-Americans put them back up. If you practice a tribal custom every day, keep them up. If you don’t put them down.” Almost everyone put their hands down. Then he said, “That’s sad. You’re losing your languages, you’re losing your customs, you’re losing touch with your roots and ancestors. That’s sad. It’s sad that you can’t speak your ancestors tongues…” and he went on. Finally, he said, “That’s what I want White Americans to know.” We were left to infer. I am not sure that most people got it.

Today has been long. Longer than most days have been. I am not sure why. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I am tired. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I just want to write. I don’t want to read for class. I want to write my memories and other people’s memories in beautiful, articulate language. I want to have time to write what I want to write when I want to write it.

Right now I am buried under books I have little interest in with a stack of them that I do have interest in waiting like batters on deck for some opportunity to make the big play. When you want it too badly, you strike out. Humility and skill hit the home runs. I am buried under assignments that suck like little leeches my attention from my wanderlust of my pen to the deeds that must be done. I must read, I must write, I must grade. I must press on. I am a wandering Jew in a desert of must-get-this-done.

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