Sherman Alexie and the Case of the Crazy-Ass Fifteen-Year-Old

Sherman Alexie is busy: According to an interview with Failbetter, he’s working on Fire With Fire, the “great big American Native American Novel,” a sequel to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, another young adult novel, Radioactive Love Song, that may or may not be narrated by an iPod, and he’s currently promoting Face, a collection of poetry. But I was mainly struck by the portion of the interview in which he discusses his 2007 novel, Flight, which struck me as a young-adult novel. Apparently the interviewer feels the same way:

You wrote Flight during the same time that you were writing True Diary. Did you think about that as YA at all too?

No—it’s funny that people would even think so.

But I would’ve loved that book when I was fifteen.

But you were probably a crazy-ass fifteen-year-old. It wasn’t the kids I was worried about, it wouldn’t get past the teachers, the gatekeepers. There’s genital mutilation in that book! No, I never thought of it as YA. It’s way too violent. It’s funny, people don’t even remember how violent it is. You know people will say that to me, “Why isn’t that a YA?” I’ll start listing everything that happens and they say, “Wait a second. That never would’ve made it past the school board.”

Well, True Diary didn’t—

True Diary didn’t make it past the school board in a couple places! But it’s so funny—the amazing thing is, it’s certain communities, because tomorrow I’m reading from it in the George Bush Library here. I want to get a photograph of me reading at the George Bush Library and send it to that school and say, “At least a Republican president doesn’t mind.”

Fair points. But I don’t doubt that more than a few fifteen-year-olds, crazy-ass or no, might find Flight more relatable than much of what what’s officially sanctioned for them.

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