In the essay, Superman and Me by Sherman Alexie, argues that reading is the gateway to education and a critical skill for success. Throughout the essay we see, Alexie narrates his childhood experience of being a Native American student with a thirst for knowledge and shares his struggle of discrimination towards Native Americans in a non-Indian-based society. The author’s argument is based upon personal experience with shared home life and school, how he grew as a person to go against what was expected of him and create a new future for himself and generations to come, and the use of repetition to emphasize the importance of reading.
To start the author gives the audience a soft back story about how he became so interested in reading. Through the mixture of Superman comics and his father’s book his love for reading quickly transformed into a passion. From a young age, before he could read, he would look at the foreign language of the books and he comprehended that they were set into paragraphs and that is how topics were clumped together.
The day he picked up the comic book was when the author began to assume what was happening in the plot and that is how he began to read. The author describes the Superman comic with details on how he, as a young child, comprehended the words and colorful images from the comic. “His suit is red, blue and yellow. The brown door shatters into many pieces (pg 78).” He assumed the narrative was telling him that Superman is breaking down the door, along with all other dialogue that was in the scene, it all pertained to the busted down door.
The author repeats “Superman is breaking down the door (pg 79),” giving the story a subconscious feeling that the author is superman and the broken door is him ‘breaking down’ social norms. This confidence from the author ties together with him being Superman in his story because of his determination to help society and “save his life,” projects the characteristics of a superhero.
The author expressed the heartbreak of being stereotyped in school by the other kids for being Native American. Stereotyping is generalizing people into an adopted group and is seen all over society for many decades. In the sixth paragraph, Alexie shares, “A smart Indian is a dangerous person, widely feared and ridiculed…(pg 79).” Which is the start of an outburst of discrimination from his classmates including them wanting him to stay quiet when a non-Indian teacher asked a question or for help, he was expected to stay silent and not respond. Indian students were seen submissively ducking their heads when confronted by non-Indian people. Most students lived up to the expectations of Indian children being ‘stupid’ with the incapability of basic reading in the classrooms. The students often were monosyllabic in front of their non-Indian teachers but would tell complicated stories or jokes at home. “As Indian children, we were expected to fail in the non-Indian world (pg 79.)” Those who failed were often excepted by another fellow Indians and pitied by non-Indians. To the author there was no sense of failure because he wanted to prove that writing was not only, “something beyond Indians (pg 77),” but something worthwhile to say, something worth preserving.
The author’s resolution to the stereotypes he was thrown into was to break the cycle of societal norms and he refused to fail. The author then lists off the many things he read as a kid, from cereal boxes to books at the malls’ bookstore. “I loved those books, but I also knew that love had only one purpose. I was trying to save my life (pg 79).” This cyclical event does not strengthen his argument but suggests his personal interest in reading as a means to succeed. Despite all the books Alexie has read over the years, he grew up to become a well-known writer. He now visits schools and teaches creative writing to Indian kids. However, the author does not teach children how to write poetry, short stories, and novels. He visits schools as often as possible to reach out to the younger generations to get them into reading. Classrooms are full of Indian children some have looks of bright eyes and excitement while others have defeat written all over them. “Books, I say to them. Books, I say.” He includes all readers with his simple style of writing, he does not alienate any poor readers. The author is now the one to ‘break down the door’ for younger generations, he is their Superman.
The author repeatedly uses the saying “trying the save my life,” referring to his reading habits. This repetition is used to emphasize the importance of reading as well as enforce the thesis. In the eighth paragraph, Alexie begins almost every sentence with “I read…” to show importance to his experience reading and to show it is not only from leisure but a distraction from life’s purpose. As he repeats, “I refused to fail. I was smart, I was arrogant. I was lucky…,” was not to criticize other Native Americans but to show that he was able to rise above the expectations of the non-Indian world. We also find that the author repeats the word books to the children in the classroom. By hearing yet another Native American repeat the work ‘books’ the little children can make connections and comprehend that books are there for their use as well as the non-Indians. He speaks straight to the students, knowing that he is directly communicating with the student. Any indirect communication would be thrown away. Alexie is opening their minds to the possibility of literature to help shape their future.
In conclusion, Alexie believes literacy is the key to battling racial stereotypes. The author’s argument in his essay is based upon personal experience with shared home life and school, how he grew as a person to go against what was expected of him and create a new future for himself and generations to come, and the use of repetition to emphasize the importance of reading. His writing style is simple, to not alienate any poor readers, for whom is the audience of this essay. The author compares himself to Superman with heroic characteristics. He has been knocking down barriers between Indian kids and education his whole life. The stereotypical idea of Indians not being able to read or have booked are pressed into the already defeated minds, the kids that feel there is nothing they can do. Alexie pushes into their minds and forces them to see the open possibilities with one single word. Spoken clearly, directly, and repeated. Books.