Similarities of Sherman Alexie's Superman and Me and Love Letters by Megan Foss: Writing to Survive

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In the short stories “Superman and Me,” by Sherman Alexie and “Love Letters,” by Megan Foss, the similar symbol of survival in the forms of reading and writing is shared. Characters with little to no proper experience in reading and writing find that to be their lifeline in a world pitted against them. Though set back by skills, characters from both stories learn to use the power of reading and writing to better themselves and change the image that was imposed on them by society.

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In “Superman and Me,” Foss describes the character as an Indian boy that learned to read on his own at a young age. In an early society where Native Americans are sought out to be idiotic and savage, it wasn’t common for a young Indian child to be “smart”. “A smart Indian is a dangerous Person...,” says Alexie, but not dangerous in a physical manner rather in an intellectual way (Foss, 5). Survival is referenced as needed so as to maintain in the world because most Indians aren’t educated like non-Indians, they are often pitied because they are expected to fail. Foss then later tells how when he was a kid, there was no Indian guest to speak to them and that now he visits classrooms to encourage the younger generation to pursue books and so that will fight the stereotype that they are a race of uneducated individuals. In an article, “Native American Student Face Ongoing Crisis in Education,” Ellwood says, “Racially and culturally insensitive and incompetent educators continue to be a problem for Native American students,” shows that even educators still see Indian students in a lesser form, and it affects their education (Ellwood, “Native American Students Face Ongoing Crises in Education”). Goes back to why Alexie attends classrooms to encourage them that books are a way they can save their lives and survive in a non-Indian world without full dependence on educators (Alexie, pg. 6).

In Megan Foss’s “Love Letters”, tells how a trailer trash junkie used writing as a way of survival in the streets and in jail. Though not being educated much, she managed to use writing to maintain her emotions at first, then as a way of communication and for a shorter jail sentence. She wrote bundles of letters that were conversations to friend but didn't mail them off as which would acknowledge her friend was incarcerated. It wasn’t soon after she became the one incarcerated and at first used writing as a way to speak to the outside then to shorten her sentence. In jails/prisons, taking educational classes is seen as a step to rehabilitation, few participate in this even when it can reduce served time. In the article, “In Prison, Education Is Your Best Route to a Better Life,” James Erwin states, “Only one in five people in prison are able to complete a job application form,” this goes back to inmates not using resources provided to rehabilitate (Erwin, In Prison, Education is Your Best Route to a Better Life). Though she was living half her life as a junkie, she was able to turn it around for the better using writing as a form of survival with being alone in the streets and in incarceration (Foss, Megan., “Love Letters”, Approaching Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing).

Both Alexie and Foss tell self stories of how they were from an uneducated world and how they were supposed to be seen by society, dumb Indians and junkies. Faced by challenges set to dwindle their lives, they needed overcame that with a similar symbol portrayed in their stories of surviving using reading and writing. One found reading at an early age to be different from others, with this he was able to educate himself and break the stereotype his people accepted and others acknowledged. The other faced problems by her upbringing but used writing as a way to maintain sanity while on the streets alone, then used that same survival trait to aid her on bettering her life during and after incineration (Schakel, Peter J., and Jack Ridl. Approaching Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing). Reading and Writing is a necessity in society and for some a way of surviving or getting out of hardships for the better.

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