Recently, Moment magazine asked me to write an entry for their “Speaking Volumes” series. They approach current Jewish authors and ask them to write about authors who’ve influenced them.
Over the course of the next five minutes, a name popped out. I said no, then
yes, then noyesno again. And just when I was determined that I wasn’t going to ask — I mean, you can’t be a rebel 24 hours a day — I typed the words “Sherman Alexie” and sent it off.
Unlikely enough, the folks at Moment loved it. My favorite Jewish writer was a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene American Indian.
Alexie wasn’t writing about “every Indian’s experience” and he wasn’t trying to. He’s just this person who happens to be a lot of things—Indian, thinker, queer advocate, zombie fan—and his writing encompasses all of it. He’s not the definitive Indian writer any more than he’s the definitive zombie writer; he’s just Sherman Alexie. And that might be the most profound statement he could make.
(Confession time, which should come as a surprise to nobody: I was originally going to ask if I could write about Dara Horn, who might be my favorite Jewish writer. And then I checked Moment’s site and realized that Dara Horn had already written her own “Speaking Volumes” column. But the more I think about it, the more I’m pretty sure of my choice: Dara Horn writes about Jewish traditions and ideas amazingly. But I didn’t know how to write about actually being Jewish until Sherman Alexie came along and punched me between the eyes.)