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The Shermanator shakes up Suquamish

Sherman Alexie brought down the house of more than 350 people in roars of laughter.  - Kelly Joines/Staff photo
Sherman Alexie brought down the house of more than 350 people in roars of laughter.
— image credit: Kelly Joines/Staff photo

t Alexie ‘slowly turning Norwegian’

SUQUAMISH — Sherman Alexie, award-winning Native American author raised on the Spokane Indian reservation, cannot handle Washington State Ferries. He says he has Post Traumatic Ferry Syndrome.

The stress of catching the boat on time has him sweating. When he catches it, he said he cries tears of mixed emotions. Once, the stress got to him so badly he decided to park his car and run on board — catching it just in time. Half-way across the Edmonds-Kingston crossing it dawned on him, “wait, how am I going to get to Chimacum?”

In the Suquamish Tribal Gymnasium Thursday night, more than 350 bellies ached from laughing so hard. The Shermanator was in the house.

Part stand up comic, part studious, reclusive writer, Alexie has a long list of national book awards for his written works including his most recent “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” He is also well known for his movie “Smoke Signals.”

The man is obsessed with smell, has a long-running affection for librarians and said he is comically impressed with the cross-cultural differences between Suquamish and Bainbridge Island. He hosted his first book stop of the night at the island’s Eagle Harbor Book Company. The presentation was part of The Suquamish Foundation’s partnership with West Sound Reads, sponsored by local bookstores like Eagle Harbor, Poulsbo’s Liberty Bay Books and Port Gamble’s Dauntless Bookstore.

“He has stunned us with impeccable beauty and petrifying honesty at times. There is no doubt about it, he is a courageous, intellectual warrior,” said Kate Skinner, reference librarian for Kitsap Regional Library. “It is a good day to be a librarian when I can give you Sherman Alexie.”

Getting from Bainbridge Island to Suquamish, was an “interesting journey” for Alexie.

“I rode with the prettiest, blondest family. I wanted to kill the husband and take his place. I’m kidding, I’m not going to kill him,” Alexie laughed. “And then I get here and it’s all Indians ... I’m in a car full of all blondes and then in a room with fry bread.”

In the style of “The Absolutely True Diary” he poked fun at growing up on the “rez” outside Spokane, with allergies, 42 teeth (rather than the standard issue 32), lopsided eyes and an incredibly large head.

“I’m a bad Indian,” he said. “It’s so embarrassing to be an Indian with hay fever.”

Although his latest book is based on truth, he warned it’s half fiction. He won’t divulge which half.

Alexie said humor, at least in his case, was passed through the matriarchal line. Doctors told his mother his brain would be equivalent to a vegetable after a surgery Alexie needed as an infant. “What kind of vegetable?” his mother wanted to know.

Alexie never had the best of luck with doctors. The one who ripped out his ‘10 teeth past human’ said Indians hurt half as much as white people and completed the surgeries in one blow.

Looking back on it, he said he hopes he runs into the man again because he’d like to kick him in the important part of his pants.

“A mythological kick,” Alexie laughed. “So I can say, ‘see those two stars in the sky? That must have hurt you twice as much as it would have hurt me.’ ”

Alexie morphed into various forms throughout his life, combating stutters, lisps and epileptic seizures. He is currently working on becoming Norwegian.

“I’ve lived in Seattle for 15 years and I’m a writer so I stayed inside the whole time and I’m slowly turning Norwegian,” he said.

But mirroring his book and affinity for fiction, he warns people to be careful what they believe.

“I don’t believe in coincidence but I believe in interpreting events exactly the way you want to,” he said. “Kind of like our president.”

Two things are for sure though. He hates the ferries and his favorite television show is “Project Runway,” or so he says.

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