Because of the hydrocephalus, Junior suffers frequent seizures and fevers, has extra teeth, a stutter, a lisp and lopsided vision corrected with government-issued black plastic glasses that make him look like "an Indian grandpa." All of this, of course, incites the Darwinian brutality of his peers, who beat him and berate him with taunts of "hydro head" and "retard." He also has loving, if flawed, parents.
This much is true about Alexie's own life. And so, too, is the life-altering decision Junior ultimately makes to go to school in nearby Reardan, where he will be "the only Indian except for the mascot."
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, "changed me tremendously," Alexie said. "I saw the end game of tribalism--it ends up with people flying planes into buildings. I've worked hard since then to shed the negative parts of tribal thinking, which almost always involve some sort of fear," the starting point for violence, he said. "'Indian Killer' is very much a tribal and fundamentalist book. I've really disowned it."
"He'll still swing crisply at all around him who presume, but he swings from a different center of gravity now," Lenfestey said. "That center of gravity is more Sherman Alexie as father, citizen of the world and prosperous man, but still against all forms of idiocy, none excepted."
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