Every year, we come together as a community around a shared book to read and reflect with empathy, intellect, and curiosity; to laugh and debate; to discuss social issues; to challenge each other’s perspectives; and to open our minds to reconsider long-held beliefs.
Sherman Alexie’s work has been a perennial favorite in Cushing’s English curriculum for several years now, so many students were familiar with his short stories, poems, and novels before Reservation Blues was selected as this year’s Common Read. There was much excitement in the air anticipating his visit.
The 2015-2016 school year started three weeks ago when we gathered in advisee groups for our first academic endeavor of the year -- sharing our experience with Reservation Blues through music, thoughtful inquiry, honest reflection, and open dialogue. That dialogue continued Friday, Sept. 25, when the author visited Cushing. After holding the entire school in rapt attention during an afternoon all-school assembly, Mr. Alexie answered questions from a smaller group of students and faculty members for another two hours, urging them them to pay attention to their emotional responses to experiences and the challenges that help us define who we are.
Later that evening, the Academy hosted a dinner, bringing together faculty from several peer schools such as Tabor and Eagle Mountain, local residents from the Ashburnham library book club, and several Cushing faculty members to dine and chat with the author. Again, Mr. Alexie regaled the group with his hilarious and poignant storytelling, and engaged the room with thoughtful dialogue, challenging educators to hold social justice high in our work.
Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction, a PEN/Hemingway Citation for Best First Fiction, and the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, Sherman Alexie is a poet, short story writer, novelist, and performer.
He has published 24 books including poetry collections such as What I've Stolen, What I've Earned, from Hanging Loose Press; short story collections such as Blasphemy from Grove Press and; and novels such as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a novel from Little, Brown Books for Children and our Common Reading selection, Reservation Blues from Grove Press. Smoke Signals, the movie he wrote and co-produced based on his short story collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, won the Audience Award and Filmmakers Trophy at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival.
A Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, Alexie grew up in Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He has been an urban Indian for over 20 years and currently livies in Seattle.