On May 10, the author of Reservation Blues and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian publishes his first picture book, Thunder Boy Jr., about a Native American boy who wishes he had a different name.
TIME: What was your aim in writing this?
Alexie: There’s a real lack of Native Americans in contemporary picture books. I mean, there’s a lack of us in all genres, but I couldn’t find a picture book about a contemporary Native American family.
Why is writing for a young audience important to you?
The books I read when I was younger, they could change me overnight. That doesn’t really happen as an adult. Maybe there are people like that, but I’m not one of them, and I never hear from them. But I get these amazing letters from kids since I wrote True Diary.
The American Library Association has called True Diary the most banned book in America. How do you feel about that?
It’s awesome. It helps sales. But [the banning is] not just about the sexual content, which is pretty minor. It’s about the race, the ethnicity and the politics. I think that all blends together for certain people so that the book feels completely strange and threatening to them.
Why do you think the question of free speech vs. “political correctness” is on the public’s mind these days?
Internet communication is making people more impulsive. That said, it’s also because we brown folks are sick of this sh-t and we exercise our power. That makes old power structures uncomfortable—and that’s conservatives and liberals. You can see that dynamic with Sanders vs. Clinton, where brown folks are hanging with Clinton.
Why do you think that is?
Because the government has actually worked for us. So I’m one of the brown folks for Clinton.