Sherman Alexie Biography

Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr. is an award-winning author known for his works in Native American literature. His writings delve into the hardships faced by Native American people, including alcoholism, violence, poverty, and despair. Despite a troubled childhood on the Spokane Indian Reserve in Washington, Alexie overcame serious health issues and domestic troubles to become a highly acclaimed novelist and poet. Recognized for his brilliance as a student, he earned a scholarship to Gonzaga University, where he initially pursued a career in medicine before discovering his passion for creative writing. Starting with poetry, Alexie eventually expanded his repertoire to include short stories and novels, establishing himself as a prominent figure in the literary world.

Quick Facts

  • Nick Name: The Globe
  • Also Known As: Sherman Joseph Alexie Jr.
  • Age: 57 Years, 57 Year Old Males
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Diane Tomhave
    • Father: Sherman Joseph Alexie
    • Mother: Lillian Agnes Cox
  • Quotes By Sherman Alexie
  • Native Americans
  • Height: 6’2″ (188 cm), 6’2″ Males
  • U.S. State: Washington
  • Diseases & Disabilities: Bipolar Disorder
  • City: Spokane, Washington
  • Founder/Co-Founder: Longhouse Media
  • More Facts
  • Education: Gonzaga University, Washington State University, Reardan High School
  • Awards:
    • 1992 – National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship
    • 1993 – PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Book of Fiction
    • 1994 – Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award
    • 1996 – American Book Award
    • 2001 – PEN/Malamud Award
    • 2007 – National Book Award
    • 2009 – Odyssey Award for years best audiobook
    • 2010 – PEN/Faulkner Award
    • 2010 – Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award
    • 2010 – Puterbaugh Award
    • 2010 – California Young Reader Medal

Childhood & Early Life

Sherman Alexie was born on the Spokane Indian Reservation to Sherman Joseph Alexie, Sr. and Lillian Agnes. He was one of their six children and is of mixed ancestry. At the age of six months, he underwent brain surgery due to hydrocephalus, a condition he was born with. Doctors were unsure if he would survive or if he would suffer from mental disabilities, but he miraculously survived. During his childhood, his father was largely absent due to alcoholism, and his mother worked multiple jobs to support her children. Alexie also suffered from frequent seizures and had to take medication to control them. He attended the reservation school before transferring to Rearden High School, where he excelled in academics, sports, and extra-curricular activities. He earned a scholarship to Gonzaga University for a pre-med program but dropped out in 1987 after realizing his discomfort with anatomy classes. He then enrolled at Washington State University to study creative writing, where he studied under renowned poet Alex Kuo and received several fellowships.


Alexie’s first collection of poetry, “The Business of Fancydancing: Stories and Poems,” was published in 1992. He followed this with “I Would Steal Horses” the same year. His works often address themes such as poverty, racism, and alcoholism, which were common issues faced by Native Americans. He approached these serious topics with a humorous and light-hearted tone. In 1993, he published two more collections of poetry: “Old Shirts and New Skins” and “First Indian on the Moon.” That same year, he released his first work of prose, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” a collection of interconnected short stories. In 1995, he published his first full-length novel, “Reservation Blues,” which further developed the characters from his short story collection. He continued to write novels, including “Indian Killer” in 1996, which explores racial violence and hatred in Seattle. Alexie also ventured into film, writing the screenplay for the independent movie “Smoke Signals” in 1998 and directing his own film, “The Business of Fancydancing,” in 2002. In 2007, he released the semi-autobiographical young adult novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” which was illustrated by Ellen Forney. He also published another novel, “Flight,” in the same year, which follows the story of a Native American teenager named Zits. In 2010, he released a collection of poems and short stories titled “War Dances.”

Major Works

One of Alexie’s most well-known works is “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” a collection of short stories that explores the relationships between two Native American men living on the Spokane Indian Reservation. This work was later adapted into the independent film “Smoke Signals,” for which Alexie wrote the screenplay. The film received critical acclaim and won several awards at film festivals.

Awards & Achievements

In 1993, Alexie won the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Book of Fiction for “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” In 2010, he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas.

Personal Life & Legacy

Alexie is married to Diane Tomhave and has two sons. He is also a founding Board Member of Longhouse Media, a non-profit organization that teaches filmmaking skills to Native American youths.


As a child, Alexie earned the nickname “The Globe” due to his large head.

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