Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Link to Amani Valentine's Senior Art Thesis  

Sherman  Alexie

Amani  Valentine 

The Public Reaction to the AIDS Epidemic of the 1980s

Sherman Alexie’s Perspective on Indigenous Nationalism

Sherman Alexie is a Spokane-Coeur d'Alene-American author who combines Native American literature, humor, and documentary fiction all into the form of novels and short stories. In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Reservation Blues, and The Toughest Indian in the World, Alexie’s characters confront stereotypes about Native Americans that only perpetuate the cycle of poverty, depression, and alcoholism for generations to come. Despite this, Alexie’s use of humor underscores his hope for the future and the resilience Native Americans continue to show in their efforts to preserve their indigenous identity. One of the protagonists, Arnold, fights to receive a better education to expand his future job opportunities by traveling to school off the reservation, where he endures vulgar criticisms made by his teachers and peers in an attempt to devalue him. Despite these ignorant comments, Arnold perseveres and proves those around him wrong while validating his own self worth, all while maintaining a humoristic tone.

While Sherman Alexie was writing literary work concerning the negative stereotypes of Native Americans, during the 1980s people affected by AIDS in the United States fought against harmful stereotypes and discrimination. The AIDS epidemic in the 1980s gained national attention after the first case was diagnosed in a gay man. At the time, homosexual relationships were looked down upon, so this disease began to carry the weight of the negative stereotypes that the gay community already struggled with. Despite public hysteria, this disease did not solely affect homosexual men, but anyone who came into serious contact with infected bodily fluids. As a result, the AIDS epidemic sparked controversy and a public health revolution across the United States as people fought for more funding, treatment facilities, and resources. While hysteria among the American public negatively impacted the gay community, it also acted as a catalyst for a new civil rights movement for all those affected by the AIDS epidemic.

Major Works Consulted:

“AIDS in the ‘80s: The Rise of a New Civil Rights Movement.” CNN. Last Modified June 1,2016. Accessed February 7, 2018. emory-university-the-80s/index.html.
Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009.
---. Reservation Blues. New York: Grove, 2005.
Behrman, Greg. The Invisible People. New York: Free Press, 2004.
Photo Credit: “Writer Sherman Alexie is Back on the Road.” StarTribune.


 Link to Amani Valentine's Senior Art Thesis