Topekans discuss Sherman Alexie’s work

Tanner Ballengee / Washburn Review

Sherman Alexie is a Native American author, poet and filmmaker who doesn’t prefer the term “native” as politically correct, and said he would rather be called “American Indian,” or just “Indian.”

Alexie was scheduled to visit Washburn University this month to give a lecture and discuss his latest book, “War Dances,” but because of a family emergency, he had to cancel his event and hopes to reschedule sometime this spring.

Despite Sherman Alexie’s cancellation, students and those interested in Alexie’s work, gathered at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library last Sunday. Washburn professor Dennis Etzel Jr. held an iDiscussion on the book “War Dances.”

The group discussed many topics raised by the books, such as religion, stereotyping, racism, his relationships, as well as his love for basketball.

Etzel and the group talked about how Alexie survived cancer, as well as physical and sexual abuse, and how he used humor as a way to approach the pain in his writing.

Some parts of the book were mildly offensive to some members of the attendees, perhaps by the excessive swearing or some of the more controversial stories like “Breaking and Entering,” but as a whole, the readers said they enjoyed the book and were glad to read it.

“War Dances” was the winner of the coveted PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2010. The book is a collection of poems and short stories.

Alexie has written 22 books during his writing career, and has also written two films: “Smoke Signals” and “The Business of Fancydancing.” Although Sherman Alexie will not be visiting this semester, Washburn will still be showing Alexie’s film “Smoke Signals” tonight in the Mabee Library at 7 and Oct. 21 at noon in the Kansas Room of the Memorial Union, and is free to attend.