* Literary Awards

March 19, 2007

Award-winning Native American author to speak at Literary Awards

Shreman Alexie
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Poet, fiction writer and performer Sherman Alexie will be reading and discussing his work on April 19 as part of the 76th annual Purdue Literary Awards.

A public reading by the novelist and "Smoke Signals" screenwriter will be at 8 p.m. in Stewart Center's Fowler Hall. The reading is free and open to the public.

Alexie is the author of 17 books, including the PEN/Hemingway-award winning short story collection "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven," which also won a Lila Wallace-Readers' Digest Writers' Award. He also will speak about the writing process during the Literary Awards Banquet from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on April 19 in the Purdue Memorial Union's North Ballroom.

The banquet honors winners of more than 65 prizes in the Literary Awards competition to Purdue undergraduate and graduate students and to high school students from across Indiana. Categories include poetry, short fiction and criticism.

The total prizes are worth more than $14,000. Banquet tickets, which are $15 for students and $21 for adults, can be purchased in Heavilon Hall, Room 324, or by calling the English department at (765) 494-3740. April 16 is the last day to buy tickets for the banquet. The ticket price includes a predinner reception, banquet dinner, the awards ceremony and Alexie's talk on the creative process.

"Sherman Alexie is a gifted writer whose work spans several genres - fiction, poetry, nonfiction and film. He wrote the screenplay for 'Smoke Signals,' which received numerous awards, including the Sundance Film Festival's Audience Award and the Filmmakers Trophy," said Bich Minh Nguyen, assistant professor of English. "His work is taught in universities and schools across the country. People may also be surprised to know that he often performs on the stand-up comedy circuit and even opened for the Indigo Girls in 1996."

Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, was born in 1966 and grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington. His books of poetry include "The Business of Fancydancing; I Would Steal Horses" and "One Stick Song." His short story collections include "The Toughest Indian in the World." His novels are "Reservation Blues," "Indian Killer" and most recently, "Flight," which will be released in April. Alexie also is a champion performance poet, in addition to his work as a stand-up comedian and screenwriter.

Alexie was born with water on the brain, a condition called hydrocephalus, and was not expected to live. He had a brain operation at six months old, and doctors predicted he would live with severe mental development problems. Instead, he learned to read by age 3. He earned his bachelor's degree from Washington State University and received the Washington State Arts Commission Poetry Fellowship in 1991 and the National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship in 1992. Just one year after graduating from college, two of his poetry collections, "The Business of Fancydancing" and "I Would Steal Horses," were published.

Alexie is publishing a young adult novel, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," this year. For more on Alexie, see his Web site at

Last year's Literary Awards program featured Booker Prize author A.S. Byatt. The Literary Awards are sponsored by the Department of English and Purdue Libraries. Since 1928 the English department has brought many writers to campus to speak at the awards banquet, including Maxine Hong Kingston, Tony Kushner, Jane Hamilton, Seamus Heaney, Grace Paley, Saul Bellow and Tennessee Williams.

Contact: Maggie Morris, Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2432,

Sources: Dorsey Armstrong, associate professor of English and chair of Literary Awards,

Bich Minh Nguyen, assistant professor of creative writing and member of Literary Award committee,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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