National Book Festival

Reading an excerpt from his YA book

Alexie tells a story from his childhood.

Alexie talks about his childhood illness.

Sign in front of Alexie's signing tent

I recently went to the Nat’l Book Festival held annually here in DC.  It’s a FREE event and suitable for ALL ages.  I heard several authors speak, including Sherman Alexie, one of my favorite authors.  He has overcome a LOT in his life to become a success: illness, alcoholism and many deaths in the family, absentee father, and poverty being some of the issues.  Alexie’s desire for something better lead him to a HS (off the reservation) in a lower-middle class white town.   He was the ONLY Indian student at that time.  “I don’t know how it happened, but there were four PhDs teaching there.”  He is a GREAT speaker and VERY funny!  He also wrote the screenplays for Smoke Signals and The Business of Fancydancing. 

Being a BIG fan, I knew some of the anecdotes and jokes he told.  Alexie came to my high school in 1996 (before he was well-known).   I learned that the doc who performed surgery on him (when he was an infant w/ an enlarged brain) was a Greek Muslim man.  “I know some people are nervous about that kind of stuff… but not me.  I’m like ‘Go Allah!'” he exclaimed.  I bought his most recent book of poems and short stories, War Dances, which he autographed.   It was PRETTY exciting for me (even more than when I met Jhumpa Lahiri and Chitra Divakaruni)!


Very big crowd came to hear David McCullough

I also heard David McCullough speak; he got a BIG crowd.  “Thank you for making history come alive,” a young grad student commented to the author.  He is JUST as humble, gentlemanly, and well-spoken as you’ve seen on TV.  Like Alexie, he spoke re: the importance of teachers and librarians.  Much of his research was done in the Library of Congress, not Paris!  After his talk, there was a live 1 hr. CSPAN 2 interview session where the famous historian took Qs from crowd, callers, and emails.  McCullough’s latest book is The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.  Basically, it’s about several young/ambitious/pioneering 19th century Americans (including Mark Twain) who traveled to France to further their education.  I still need to make time to read his book on John Adams.  (The HBO series was AWESOME, so do check that out!)     



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