Sherman Alexie is an American novelist born on October 7, 1966 in Spokane, Washington. As a 6-month-old baby, he suffered from a brain condition called hydrocephalus and underwent surgery that successfully fixed his disability. Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation and attended middle school there. He was terrorized at school by students and teachers due to his abnormally large head, a consequence of the hydrocephalus. Despite this, he excelled in all of his classes and became an avid reader at a young age. After graduating high school, Alexie attended Gonzaga University on a pre-med track, but dropped out to pursue creative writing at Washington State University. During his college years, he compiled a poetry collection entitled The Business of Fancydancing: Stories and Poems, which was eventually published in 1992.
In 1995, Sherman Alexie published his first novel, Reservation Blues, which tells the story of a group of Spokane Indians who start a rock band. It explores the discrimination they face in attempting to make it big in the music industry. Alexie heavily draws upon his own experiences as a child growing up on the Spokane Reservation to inform the plot of the story. Although this novel showcases the hardships Native Americans often face in the modern day, it is also filled to the brim with comedy and dark humor.
Upon its publication, Reservation Blues received rave reviews for its heartwarming portrayal of a Native-American-based band trying to find success in an intensely competitive workforce. Frederick Busch of The New York Times states that Alexie “creates stinging commentary, and he shows his determination to make you uncertain whether you want to laugh or cry.” With its high praise from critics and audiences, Reservation Blues ultimately won the American Book Award.