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VC Lyceum speaker offers political, humorous message (Video)

By Jessica Priest
March 19, 2013 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated March 18, 2013 at 10:19 p.m.

Sherman Alexie at the Victoria College Lyceum series.

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• WHEN: 7 p.m. April 9

• WHERE: VISD Fine Arts Center

The one message Sherman Alexie wants to convey is that we're all immigrants.

"You should really be saying you're from Africa or from everywhere," he told a crowd at Leo J. Welder Center for Performing Arts on Tuesday.

Alexie was the third speaker for this semester's Victoria College Lyceum Lecture Series. He was originally scheduled to appear Feb. 7 but canceled because of an illness.

The award-winning author and humorist Alexie drew upon his upbringing as a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian from Washington state to delve into a plethora of hot-button issues, such as immigration, gay marriage and censorship.

He hoped that by doing so he'd shatter the sometimes storybook perceptions people often harbor about Native Americans.

Often taking a humorous aim at Republicans for what he called their "19th century take on social issues," he said it killed him to think that people still believe Jesus was blond or that banning books protects kids.

He also lamented the demise of his medium - books - which he predicted would end up a lot like the fragmented music industry.

"Never again will someone as strange as David Bowie be an international rock star," he said.

One of the four works he read aloud, "Sonnet with Water Cooler," brought this idea home. It was about an episode of television show "MASH," which 65 million people viewed.

Eric Longbotham, a director of a small food pantry, traveled from Cuero with a friend to see Alexie. The two purchased his book "Blasphemy" before the show because their area Hastings didn't have any more copies.

"I've been a big fan ever since I first saw 'Smoke Signals,'" he said of the 1998 critically-acclaimed film, for which Alexie wrote the screenplay.

Longbotham said the dialogue Alexie uses throughout his work pulls the reader in and the stories are sometimes heartbreaking.

David Godfrey, meanwhile, was in from Pennsylvania to visit his 91-year-old mother. He said they'd wisely chosen this event over attending the Grand Ole Opry. The 63-year-old said Alexie's message transcended state lines.

"This was fantastic," he said. "I think he hit the essence of the problems of our country today. Too many people are worried about things they shouldn't be, such as gay marriage, and not enough people are worried about raising their own families."

Alexie is working on a sequel to his hit novel, "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian." The new book is titled "The Magic and Tragic Year of My Broken Thumb," he said. In the fall, his latest collection of poems, "What I've Stolen and What I've Earned," will also hit the book shelves.

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