I first saw Sherman Alexie read from his poetry at Auntie's Bookstore back when both were still in the early stages of their professional existence. Auntie's was still a smallish store on Riverside Avenue, and Sherman was still a kid, not long out of the Spokane Indian Reservation, Reardan High School and Washington State University.
From the beginning, Sherman showed talent, not just on the page with the collection that I still consider his finest work of poetry, “The Business of Fancydancing,” but also an onstage performer. This was true whether he was posing as one of his characters, such as Thomas Builds-the-Fire, or telling stories of his childhood. And gradually he matured, evolving from a kid with talent to a man who could fill an hour with political and social commentary that was as funny as it was bitingly poignant.
I saw him address the Sundance Film Festival crowds who attended his first attempts at filmmaking, “Smoke Siignals,” Chris Eyre's adaptation of his book “The Long Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” And I saw him fill both the old Fox and State theaters when he screened his own directorial effort, a very loose adaptation of “The Business of Fancydancing.” And I've seen him fill the second story of the current Auntie's site ostensibly to read from his latest work but actually just be himself.
That self, always entertaining and often illuminating, will be on display Wednesday night, again at the Bing Crosby Theater. Sponsored by Auntie's, the event costs what is being advertised as a “$5 donation.” Doors open at 6 p.m.
Just turned 47, Sherman is no longer that long-haired kid who played basketball at Reardan. He's now a National Book Award winner who has become a cultural institution. If you haven't ever seen him speak, now's your chance. You're not likely to be sorry.
Below: Sherman Alexie talking about his desire to become a writer.