One of the most moving talks at the SCBWI summer conference was by Sherman Alexie, a Spokeane/Coeur d'Alene Indian and a cross over author who has had great success in the adult literary world with such books as The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (short stories, 1993), which he turned in part into the motion picture Smoke Signals, starring Ben Beach.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, his young adult novel, published in 2007, won many awards, but also gained a lot of controversy in its usage of the word "mast****ion". I really wanted to buy some of his books after his "keynote speech", but confess after finding a certain amount of language on every page, just couldn't- more for the fact it was just down right distracting to me- in trying to get into the story- so alas will be waiting until age calms the might of his pen and he calms down his language.
His talk on the other hand was so personal and moving- he was born with water on the brain, blind in one eye, malformed head and all sorts of other maladies- spent much time with the nuns at the mission, riding the train to bigger towns for medical treatment and reading anything he could get his hands on while he spent countless hours in bed.
He shared letters he has received over the years from "misfits" like himself and reminded us it is for them we should write, because one book can make such a huge difference in someone life.
What was amazing is that a few days before the conference I had helped my friend, who teaches special ed out on the Reservation, buy a car seat for a little Navajo boy, who like Alexie, had water on the brain and would need special transport to and from school on occasion and it was up to my friend to get that done, not a lot of properly fitted school buses out there.
Of course when I came back I told her all about Sherman, a hopeful spark of a story, just a little encouragement to never, ever, write off the potential of any child- because you just don't know where and what they might be able to do with their life, with just a little bit of encouragement! It is certainly why I teach!!