Sherman Joseph Alexie, Jr. was born to Sherman Joseph Alexie, Sr. and Lillian Agnes as one of their six children on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He is of mixed ancestry.
He was born with the condition hydrocephalus that required him to have brain surgery at the tender age of six months. His parents were told that their son might not survive and even if he did, he may suffer serious mental disabilities. Miraculously he survived.
His alcoholic father was largely absent during his childhood and his mother worked at several jobs to support her children.
He suffered from frequent seizures during his childhood and had to take a lot of medicines to control them.