I recently stumbled on Sherman Alexie’s classic essay “Superman and Me,” in which he discusses how he first discovered the joys of reading. Later on, after he becomes a noteworthy poet and short story writer, he visits schools on reservations and encourages the students to write their own stories and poems. “I am trying to save their lives,” he writes, noting that “A smart Indian is a dangerous Indian.”
My take on Alexie’s essay is that there are entire generations, entire groups who have been beaten down so long that they don’t realize that their lives and experiences have value. Teaching someone how to re-discover and raise their voice is certainly a noble task, one that affirms the value of one’s life and presumably leads to additional quiet benefits that can last a lifetime. And in terms of politics, to paraphrase Alexie, a smart Indian who realizes their worth can start to raise their voice and challenge the status quo. And that’s important–it is my opinion that in our current political climate, we’re going to need a bottom-up and top-down approach to make any meaningful or lasting change.
I’m proud that Sarabande Books (which is a nonprofit based in Louisville, KY) does a lot of literary outreach work and works hard to promote local writers and literature. This year, they’re participating in the Community Foundation of Louisville’s philanthropic event “Give for Good Louisville” on Thursday, September 14. Every dollar Sarabande raises will be increased with a proportional match and additional prize dollars, so it’s a great opportunity to maximize your giving. I’m donating, and I hope you’ll be able to join me.