Sherman Alexie’s Untitledtown Discussion

An Event Review by Larry P. Madden

Sherman Alexie Untitled FestivalThe excitement of the “UntitledTown Book and Author Festival” was in the air as familiar faces and college students streamed in to the expansive KI Convention Center. I was lucky enough to settle in with some friends from College of Menominee Nation, smiling faces were in every direction. This performance was the capstone for many, celebrating the kind of festival the likes of which Green Bay hasn’t seen before. Though Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d'Alene) would soon own the room, the Unititledtown Festival owned the weekend.

If you’ve ever seen Alexie live or on television, you know that his brilliant talent never fails to shine through. His ability to hold a room in the palm of his hand is a sight to witness. That, combined with the talent of intertwining his evening’s overall story with poignant quips, is always worth the price of admission—and since this night’s address was free on a first-come basis (for general admission), it was a steal!

After softening the crowd with his, “What we all have in common as Indians,“ the chase down the rabbit hole began. As always, he had his fun with the crowd and the the lightness of the room was palpable as he stated, “The thing about fiction is you can lie.” He then informed us of his memoir coming out in the near future.

Alexie took us down a trail of pain, discovery and redemption—stories of a son and his mother. He layered the different stages of a complex life’s tale and the massive hall was alternately quiet and boisterous as he took us to the heights and depths of his real-life tale.

The poignant and painful parts tugged at everyone’s heart at some point, which he juxtaposed with the chuckles he could almost effortlessly draw from the audience. His message of human frailty and forgiveness was not lost on this participant, as was his appreciation for the strength of family.

With people from matriarchal societies, the loss of a grandmother or mother is an especially reverent event. Even in this context, Alexie found humor in fulfilling his mother’s last request, but that’s a story for Sherman to tell you. Or you can read it in his new book, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, due out in June.

Larry P. Madden (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Wisconsin) was born and raised in the Sturgeon Bay area. A recent graduate of CMN, he enjoys the Powwow trail and strives to maintain balance on the red road.