This past week, not only did I celebrate another year on this Earth, but I had the pleasure of going to an author event held by the Columbus College of Art and Design. And who was the featured author? Why, Sherman Alexie, of course!
Sherman Alexie is a well-known Native American poet, writer, and filmmaker whose writing draws on inspiration from his experiences growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Jumping to fame with his semi-autobiographical and socially charged works, Alexie is best known for his collection of short stories The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, his young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and his film Smoke Signals. My pic of Alexie is a little blurry, but his message during the author event was not. Through all of the jokes and reminiscing that he did up on that stage, Alexie was clear on one thing: Storytelling can bring about social change.
Yes, his speech was enlightening, and sometimes uncomfortable. Yes, he was brutally honest and sometimes exasperated, but never without reason. His message was simple – with stories, we step into the life of another through the central character and the author of the story. It is through this ability of stories that we are able to experience facets of life that may have never applied to us before, and not all of these facets are good. So, our eyes are opened, we hear the stories of those who society does not readily give a voice, we momentarily live the lives of these people until the last page of the book or the last second on screen. Take these stories, read them, watch them, care about the characters, care about the stories and the people that inspired them for fiction is often based on reality and sometimes reality needs to be changed.