AP Students Meet the Bestselling Author, Sherman Alexie!


Sasha Callaway '23, Editor-in-Chief of 'The Legend'

Although school’s out for the summer, APS News has one final farewell post for the 2022-2023 school year, and this one is sure not to disappoint. Students of Austin Prep’s Sophomore Discussion and Debate English Class were recently asked to create a podcast discussing The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie for their final project. So, Filippo Nicolai teamed up with Parker Vanegas and Jack Klovee on a quest to interview no one short of Sherman Alexie himself. 

In an interview with the group’s leading member, Filippo Nicolai notes, “I got the idea to reach out to Sherman Alexie when Ms. Gaudette said we could have special guests. She made an example of a group of only two people who, since their group was so small, could invite a teacher or another guest to talk with them.” Although Filippo’s group had 3 members, he thought it would be a good idea to reach out to Alexie for this interview, since he probably wouldn’t see it or accept the offer. But crazily enough, Alexie not only saw Filippo’s request but accepted the interview wholeheartedly!

Yet at the end of the day, these boys were high-school sophomores attempting to interview a bestselling author. During APS News’ exclusive with Filippo, he explains that “At first, I was very nervous to talk to him. I did not know what kind of person he was and this, combined with his fame, worried me. However, I soon relaxed while asking him questions. He was very nice and friendly and seemed happy to answer our questions.” 

One of the first things that Filippo asked in the interview was about the inspiration behind the bestseller, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Filippo says, “[Alexie]  told us that he had a friend who was an editor of kids’ books and that she often asked him where his kids’ book was, but for a long time, he did not have it. One day he was working on a memoir–which he has not published–and wrote about him leaving the reservation to go to school in Reardan. Since this did not fit well with the memoir, he instead developed it into ATDPTI, his first kids’ book. I was also interested in hearing how he had significantly based his characters and the book’s plot on his own life.”

During this interview, Alexie also gives the sophomore boys some special insight into why Native Americans choose to not leave their reservations. Filippo notes that originally, “We believed it was because the people in the reservations, like most people in the world, are afraid of change and of what fellow natives will think of them.” But according to Alexie, Native Americans do not leave their reservations because they enjoy living in such a tight-knit community even if it comes with challenges. Alexie then elaborates that  there are generally three types of natives on these reservations; “those who leave in search of better opportunities, those who stay and push for better opportunities inside their reservation, and those who stay and give up on getting better resources and removing limitations.”

On the final note of APS News’ exclusive with Filippo, I asked him if he had anything else he wanted to share about his time with Alexie. Filippo then explained that due to technical difficulties his group and Alexie recorded their interview not once, but twice! This was particularly frustrating for the boys as they had tested all of their technology prior to the interview with Alexie to make sure that everything was perfect. Thankfully, however, Alexie was kind enough to re-record with the boys. If you are interested in checking out Filippo Nicolai, Jack Klovee, and Parker Vanegas’ interview with Sherman Alexie on his creation of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, then click the link below!