Author Sherman Alexie To Give Mills Lecture
Celebrated Native American poet, author and filmmaker Sherman Alexie will present SUNY Oneonta’s Mills Distinguished Lecture, “Without Reservations: An Urban Indian’s Comic, Poetic & Highly Irreverent Look at the World,” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, in the college’s Alumni Fieldhouse.
Through generous support of the college foundation, the lecture is free and open to the public. Advance tickets are required and can be picked up at the Hunt College Union or reserved at http://www.oneonta.edu/commonread/.
Alexie has won high praise for his poems, short stories and novels about contemporary Native American reservation life, including “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven” (1993) which won a PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Book of Fiction; “Indian Killer” (1996), a New York Times Notable Book; “War Dances,” winner of the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction; and his semi-autobiographical young adult novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” (2007), which won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Alexie co-wrote the screenplay for “Smoke Signals” (1998), a critically acclaimed movie based on one of his short stories, and directed “The Business of Fancy Dancing,” a film based loosely on his first poetry collection.
An acclaimed performer, Alexie is a four-time World Poetry Bout champion and stand-up comedian who has been featured on “Politically Incorrect,” “60 Minutes II,” “NOW with Bill Moyers” and “The Colbert Report.”
“It is exciting to host Sherman Alexie, not only to interact with our students, but also to engage with an audience that is as broad as possible,” said SUNY Oneonta Provost Maria Thompson. “He is one of the most celebrated contemporary Native American writers, and the college is pleased to extend an invitation to the whole Oneonta community to attend his talk.”
Alexie’s appearance at SUNY Oneonta is the culmination of the “common read,” a new college initiative to enhance first-year student engagement and further infuse cultural literacy into academics by asking all incoming freshmen to read a diversity-related book, which will be discussed in courses across several disciplines this fall.
A “common read” is akin to a book club, in which participants all read the same literary work for the purpose of critically discussing it. At summer orientation sessions, first-year students received copies of Alexie’s 2007 novel “Flight,” a coming-of-age story narrated by a 15-year-old foster kid orphaned at age 6 by the death of his Irish American mother, and abandoned long before that by his American Indian father.
Complimentary copies of “Flight” were also made available to faculty interested in incorporating the book into their fall curricula, or simply joining in the common read experience.
In 2010, the college committed to advancing diversity as one of six pillars supporting its strategic plan. The common read aligns with this goal by encouraging students to examine and better understand topics such as equity, inclusion and personal history through many lenses.