Native American author Sherman Alexie titled his latest collection of short stories ‘Blasphemy’ because he’s been so regularly accused of it.
In an interview with Kerri Miller on the Daily Circuit, Alexie said romanticized views of Native Americans are just as harmful as negative ones:
SA:It still doesn’t reflect who we are as a people. There’s this whole idea that Indians are hanging around in the wilderness with loincloths singing to birds. It’s not even remotely true. You don’t really see Indians hanging out in REI, but seventy percent of us live in the cities! Minneapolis has an incredible urban Indian population and that doesn’t get reflected in our literature. Our lives, our actual lives, are not reflected in Native American literature.
KM: Do you say this because you don’t think there’s anything new to say about Indian tradition?
SA: Of course there’s always something new to say about it, but when it’s the only thing you’re saying, that becomes a problem. Most of the big time native writers out there are also college professors. Nobody’s written the Indian college professor novel… why haven’t they written it? They haven’t written it because they think it would feel less Indian – there’s this idea that we have to be authentic, and that plays into some idea of what Indians are supposed to be. Where’s that white collar novel? Where’s the novel about the Indian architect? or an Indian doctor? There’s a million things we do – we have every job you white folks have – there are Indian radio hosts! And yet we still function with this reservation centric, tradition centric version of who we are.
You can listen to the rest of Alexie’s interview, and why he says it’s his job to question authority, here: