The Autobiographical “I” in Sherman Alexie’s “The Unauthorized Autobiography of Me”

Even to the student of life writing who is not trying to distinguish the Autobiographical “I” in this piece (Chapter 9 in the text, “A Tool Kit”, p. 238), the Historical “I” (72) in this piece speaks for itself. As the prologue informs the audience, this narrative’s flesh-and-blood author was a child of the 1960’s on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington. This gives immediate authority to the Narrating “I”, who wastes no time in telling us know where his home is, and who he deals with:

“Late summer night on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Ten Indians are playing basketball…” (4), opens this “unauthorized autobiography”. As we continue to read this intimate patchwork of a witty and raw memoire-based life writing, we are bombarded with clues–everything from the atmosphere of “early Stones, earlier Beatles” (5) to the dates periodically given journal-entry style–that the temporality of this piece is fairly parallel with that of the Historical “I”, Sherman Alexie himself.

The Narrating “I” of this piece nearly pacifies the audience’s need for this story’s “occasion”, or “coaxer,” by presenting itself as a mixed bag of writing modes, voices, temporalities, and topics. One moment, we are reading a list of people with whom the author has expressed desire to feel a racial connection (Alexie, 8); the next, we are propelled into sympathy with Native American oppression by hearing the rude opinions of the non-“Indians” the Narrated “I” is physically surrounded by.

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