Sherman Alexie Speaks Out on Nasdijj


By Neal Comment

alexie.jpgThis week’s issue of Time includes an essay by Sherman Alexie (left) in which he discusses his early attempts to expose Nasdijj as “a literary thief and a liar,” and possibly, as he worried at the time, “a talented and angry white man who was writing as a Native American in order to mock multicultural literature.” Now that the truth is out there, Alexie writes, “[Nasdijj’s] lies matter because he has cynically co-opted as a literary style the very real suffering endured by generations of very real Indians because of very real injustices caused by very real American aggression that destroyed very real tribes.”

I had some questions of my own after reading Alexie’s essay online, so I shot him an email wondering what, if anything, he’d done after his initial efforts to alert Nasdijj’s publisher were rebuffed. “I was aware that Nasdijj had moved to other publishers, and that he was doing a little bit of the college speaking tour,” he replied. “But I’d given up on exposing him because nobody seemed to care. And whenever I try to expose these hoaxsters and exploiters, I’m the one who is accused of racism and imperialism and essentialism.” He adds that the Native artistic community has long been aware of frauds like Nasdijj, “but white folks don’t pay us much attention. A friend of mine emailed me to say that the whole thing made her sad because if an Indian of my success and influence can be ignored and/or dismissed by publishers then what does that say for less powerful Indians?” For that matter, he wonders, “Do you think the publishers might listen to me now?” It’s a legitimate question, and one without an obvious answer. After all, as Alexie points out, Ward Churchill remains a “leftist academic hero” despite the debunking of claims to Cherokee heritage because he’s “exactly the kind of Indian his white leftist academic compatriots want him to be […] an Uncle Tomahawk with a vocabulary.”