In the short story, Superman and Me, the author Sherman Alexie writes, “I loved those books, but I also knew that love had only one purpose. I was trying to save my life” (Alexie 6). As a young Indian boy living on the Spokane Indian Reservation, Alexie is “expected to be stupid” (Alexie 5).
However, as he strives in school through reading, the other Indian children shun him. Alexie knew from a young age that he would not be on the reservation for all of his life. “I refused to fail. I was smart. I was arrogant. I was lucky” (Alexie 6). Although at first he believed he would become a pediatrician, books became such an influence in his life that he is now a writer. Now he visits young Indian children on the reservation, who are reading and writing and “trying to save their lives” (Alexie 6).
In the short story, Daughter of Invention, the author Julia Alvarez also uses books and writing to help her succeed and “save her life”. When her family comes to America, she does very well in school, and she is asked to write a speech for a school assembly. When she is finally able to write the speech, her father fears her teachers will find her words disrespectful and destroys her speech. Her mother, who loves to invent, helps her write a new speech and also helps her begin her career as a writer.
The two authors’ stories are similar that without the influence of books, reading and writing in their childhoods, their lives as adults would be drastically different than what they are now. Quinn 2 The authors’ situations are also very different from one another. Alexie went against the belief that Indians on the reservation were not intelligent and also realized the potential in the other young Indians around him. Because of this, the other Indians saw him as an outcast. Those who failed were ceremonially accepted by other Indians and appropriately pitied by non-Indians” (Alexie 5). Alexie used reading as a way to “save his life” to break the status quo and succeed as a professional writer. Unlike Alexie, who used reading to break apart from a group, Alvarez used writing to become apart of a group in America. “In New York, I needed to settle somewhere, and the natives were unfriendly, the country inhospitable, so I took root in the language” (Alvarez 13).
These differences make the meaning of reading and writing different for them, but no less important. In both cases, the two authors used reading and writing to “save their lives”.