Alexie got the news Wednesday night at the awards ceremony in New York. He won for best book in the young people's literature category. In his acceptance speech, Alexie, an author of 19 books of fiction, poetry and essays, quipped: "Wow ... I obviously should have been writing YA (young adult) all along."
He credited Alex Kuo, a creative-writing teacher at Washington State University who gave him an anthology of Native American writing. It helped persuade him to become a writer: "I had never read words written by a Native American. The first one was a poem about frying baloney ... I grew up eating fried baloney. The other was a poem by Adrian Lewis, and the poem had the line, 'Oh, Uncle Adrian, I'm in the reservation of my mind.' I knew right then when I read that line that I wanted to be a writer. It's been a gorgeous and magnificent and lonely 20 years since then."