And now for a local shout-out!
Sherman Alexie lives in Seattle, and I go to his readings every chance I get. Unlike many writers, who sort of look down at their books and mumble, Alexie can do both page and stage really well (he is also very photogenic). You never quite know what he’s going to say — or read, since he writes all sorts of poetry, fiction, and poetry-fiction hybrids — but that’s half the fun. Just be aware: a rant about the Sonics could be involved.
It’s hard to choose which of his works to recommend. The guy is prolific. War Dances is probably the one that’s bowled me over the most with its beauty. And I love his poems. But when I read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I got to the last page of the book, immediately opened to the first page and read the whole thing straight through again. It was that good.
Ellen Forney’s illustrations amplify the story. Here’s one:
This is a young adult book, which some people think means it’s a book for young adults that should “edify” or “uplift” them. Whatever. In fact, young adult books are ABOUT young adults. Which all of us not-young adults have been.
Alexie is adept at writing about real pain. He also makes an impassioned defense of why writing about pain is important. I’m not sure his argument encompasses all the reasons for writing or reading this type of book — Sara Zarr has an excellent and thoughtful critique here — but I do think he practices what Frederick Buechner calls the “stewardship of pain.” Which is important.