Author, poet and screenwriter Sherman Alexie, who was named one of The New Yorker’s 20 top writers for the 21st century, is coming to Portland Community College’s Sylvania Campus. Alexie will speak to invited students and faculty on Wednesday, April 14. The event, sponsored by the Sylvania Reads initiative, will feature a Native American drum group performance following his talk.
This event isn’t open to the public and has been filled to capacity.
His first novel, “Reservation Blues,” won the Booklist’s Editors Choice Award for fiction, “Indian Killer” was a New York Times Notable Book, “The Toughest Indian in the World,” won the 2001 PEN/Malamud Award, honoring excellence in the art of storytelling and “Ten Little Indians” was a 2003 national bestseller and Publishers Weekly Book of the Year.
“Our students will have the opportunity to get outside their comfort zones – to learn about a different culture, to think in new ways,” said Sylvania Campus President Linda Gerber, who co-chairs the campus’ Diversity Council. “Exposing students to new ideas, to expand their horizons – this is what higher education is all about.”
His latest book is, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” a 2007 National Book Award winner in Young People’s Literature. He wrote and produced the film, “Smoke Signals,” based on his book, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” which won the Audience Award and Filmmakers Trophy at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. Other awards and honors include the 2007 Western Literature Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award and the 2003 Regents Distinguished Alumnus Award, Washington State University’s highest honor for alumni.
“He’s smart and funny and illuminates contemporary Native life in fascinating ways,” said David Stout, division dean of English and World Languages. “His writing is beautiful and he is a living example of someone who used his education to open doors for himself and his people.”
Sylvania Reads is an initiative to encourage faculty, staff and students to read books that address topics and issues pertaining to diversity. In February, it showcased Alexie’s, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” as the book pick for the year. On Wednesday, Feb. 17, a handful of Sylvania Campus dignitaries – Campus President Linda Gerber among them – read the book out loud in the cafeteria in 15-minute intervals.
“I hope that students will go away feeling empowered to find their own voices and the passion for their education and achieving their goals,” said Katy Ho, associate dean of students at Sylvania.