Two of Indian country’s most famous writers continue to make indelible marks on the literary scene—Sherman Alexie with his new-old short story collection Blasphemy (Grove Atlantic, 2012) and Louise Erdrich with The Round House, (HarperCollins, 2012) a novel that has been short-listed for a National Book Award.
Both books deal with themes familiar to American Indian readers—alcoholism, violence against Native women and the impunity associated with it, and escaping the cycle of poverty. Why the recurring themes? Alexie, Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, offered a succinct explanation in a recent interview with Public Radio’s Leonard Lopate.
“Well, we must remember, despite the idea that we beat the British and it stopped being a colony, the United States is a colony, and Native Americans are colonized people,” he said. “And like all colonized people across the world, we suffer from a loss of culture, loss of language, loss of tradition, loss of religion—and when you lose centuries of tradition, you are in incredible existential pain, and alcohol is a way to medicate.”
Alexie has substituted writing for alcohol, having been sober since the age of 23. “I found other things to medicate myself with,” he told Lopate. “Writing. I used to be a binge drinker. Now I’m a binge writer.”