I was an English major, my emphasis was in the areas of poetry and creative writing, who obtained a minor in Native American Studies. During my four and a half years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Go Big Red!) there was this one particular author who kept showing up on syllabus after syllabus. Whether it was for Poetry 498, Native American Lit 102, Ethnic Studies 201 - - Sherman Alexie was sure to be on my required reading list. It began to feel like I was spending more of my late nights and early mornings with his books than I did with my best friends. What started out as merely homework assignments turned into a literary love affair. I started to develop this very personal relationship with his stories. His works were seeing me through some of the best and worst times of my life. (Keep in mind that during my college years I was working 35-40 hours a week, had a baby, got engaged, and was looking to buy a house. It was a touch stressful, but also amazing.) From those moments on, his work has been tied to some of my most important memories.
When my Mom was diagnosed with cancer for the second time I was in the middle of reading "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven". Those short stories were an escape hatch for me. On the nights I found myself huddled in the middle of my bed sobbing because I was terrified that my mom might die, I put those feelings on hold for a while, opened that book and climbed inside the cadence of Thomas Builds-the-Fire's voice. (In case you're wondering, my Mom is healthy as can be these days...)
When I was falling in love with the boy I just knew would break my heart and watching myself do every stupid and cliche thing I vowed to never do, I ran away from myself and into "Indian Killer". I got swept away in the thriller and forgot about my boy problems. For every time he didn't call, I read another chapter. Each time his phone when directly to voicemail, I read another chapter. I read that book four times in a month. (If you're keeping score, I've been with that boy for 11 years now and haven't reread the book in 10.)
When I found out I was pregnant, I couldn't immediately process what that meant for me at 20 years old. So I took some time away from the world, sat on my sun porch drinking iced tea and read "The Summer of Black Widows". By the second time through that book of poems I knew with an inexplicable certainty that everything was going to be just fine. I still wasn't sure what my plan was, but I knew that whatever happened, it would all work out. (My daughter will turn nine soon. She is smart, funny, beautiful, and I couldn't possibly love her any more.)
Needless to say, when I found out that Sherman Alexie was going to be on campus giving a talk, reading some of his work, and holding a book signing it was an absolute no-brainer where I would be that night. It was a given that I would be in that audience with bells on.
Through what I can only assume was me cashing in on a minimum of two years worth of built up karma points, I was able to sit in the front row of the auditorium and watch the man in all his hilarious and brilliant glory. Then to top it all off, after his talk and after standing in line for 45 minutes, I got the chance to meet him. Face-to-face. I was able to finally tell him "thank-you" for providing me with my version of comfort food. (Some folks go to chocolate or booze, I go to my personal Sherman Alexie library.) He said "you're welcome" in a very sincere voice, signed my book, chuckled a bit to himself and then asked me if I wanted to take a picture with him. I proceeded to nod my head like a broken bobble-head doll and against my better judgement, spilled my guts. My awkwardness reared its ugly head while I fessed up and told him that I was trying very hard to hold back the raging fan-girl inside and that I was desperately trying to play it cool. He stood up, walked over to me and said, "Come here you adorable little stalker," and then this happened:
|Look who's getting a hug from their favorite author. OMFG - that's ME!|
(Many many thanks go to the wonderful young man who happily agreed to take this photo for me.)
I still don't have the words to describe what this meant to me. All I know is that this was definitely a night for the scrap book, and now I'm going to have to work on rebuilding a copious amount of karma points...