Trauma in Alexie’s “Unauthorized Autobiography”

In Sherman Alexie’s “Unauthorized Autobiography of Me,” there are a few instances of traumatic experiences that occur when he is growing up. On page 6, Alexie describes his older sister, Mary, wearing 1970-style short skirts and makeup. He lets the reader know that she wasn’t around often, and the only other important aspect he can remember is when he would rub his cheek on “her nyloned calf” before she’d go out. Then, she dies a decade later and at the time, Alexie was not “dreaming” of her. This short blip about Mary portrays their relationship as distant, being fourteen years apart in age. However, despite lack of further detail or memories about Mary, Alexie has handled the death of his sister like everything else. He accepts his background and comes to terms with his distinct childhood.

During his youth, Alexie’s relationship with his alcoholic father was very distressing. He recalls getting physically sick from stress and emotion when his father would disappear for weeks, without knowing when he would show up again (page 13). Then, his family would forgive his father when he’d show up again. Although, Alexie has traumatic scars from his past involving his father, at the end of the article, his father is attending one of Alexie’s readings. It is interesting how Alexie can catalogue his painful past and appear to have recovered from it.

The other racial and cultural issues he deals with coincide with his difficult upbringing, cementing his identity. I think it’s amazing he can withstand so much loss and growing up around such negativity, like alcoholism and prejudice. Alexie does not struggle in speaking about his experience, laying out the truth on the table and letting the reader make their own judgments. His honesty pushes his audience to recognize their trauma and history within their cultural sphere.

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