BROOKINGS – The author who has inspired a semester’s worth of Common Read study and activities at South Dakota State University will be on campus to present the Griffith Honors Forum Lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, at Frost Arena.
Sherman Alexie, the author of this year’s Common Read selection, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” is a noted speaker as well as an honored author.
“Sherman Alexie is a dynamic, funny and moving speaker who will offer an evening of great entertainment,” said Sherry DeBoer, executive director of the South Dakota Humanities Council, which is co-sponsoring Alexie’s appearance with the SDSU Honors College.
Alexie’s book tells the story of a teenager on the Spokane Indian Reservation who decides to leave the reservation to attend an all-white school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Publishers Weekly called the book “a Native American equivalent to ‘Angela’s Ashes,’” and the Los Angeles Times said, “Few writers are more masterful than Sherman Alexie.”
This year’s Common Read book was studied by more than 2,000 students at SDSU and 500 students in the Brookings School System. According to DeBoer, more than 2,100 books were made available to students in the region and at tribal schools statewide through a partnership with First Bank and Trust of Brookings.
“Providing books to students helps unite the whole community around important social issues,” DeBoer said.
That sense of community and shared experience is an integral component of the Common Read.
“The insight we gain and the degree to which a piece of literature can enrich our lives is almost always magnified when we share that experience,” said Honors College Dean Tim Nichols.
Those Common Read shared experiences won’t end with Alexie’s presentation. Other Common Read events include:
• “Imag(in)ing American Indians,” a presentation by South Dakota native and tribal scholar Craig Howe who will talk about the histories of indigenous peoples of South Dakota at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Volstorff Ballroom.
• “American Indian Health,” by tribal member Don Warne, director of the master’s in public health program at North Dakota State University, which will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, at the Northern Plains Biostress Laboratory 103.
• The film “Smoke Signals,” a look at contemporary issues facing American Indians which was written by Alexie, will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, in Bailey Rotunda D.
• “Tribal Land-Grant Colleges and American Indian Agriculture” will be the topic of Phil Baird, a Sicangu Lakota from Rosbud, SDSU Distinguished Alumni and academic vice president of United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, N.D., at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, in Room 0043 of the Avera Health and Science Center.
• The Hunger Banquet and Community Night will offer information about work with young people on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, news about local agencies and service opportunities and a meal based on world food distribution starting at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5, in the Volstorff Ballroom.
Alexie’s presentation at SDSU will serve as the unofficial kickoff to the Humanities Council’s South Dakota Festival of Books which starts the next day in Sioux Falls and runs through Sunday.
“Kicking off the festival here in Brookings, where our office is located, is also a great way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the festival and the 40th anniversary of the council,” DeBoer said.
Common Read events are free and open to the public, with the exception of the Hunger Banquet that requires a $2 admission. Alexie’s presentation is open, but tickets must be procured ahead of time online at http://www.sdstate.edu/honors/griffithticketrequest.cfm.
Alexie’s novel is available at Cover to Cover in Brookings and the SDSU Bookstore.
For more information about the Common Read, go to http://www.sdstate.edu/honors/commonread/index.cfm.
For more information about the S.D. Humanities Council, go to http://www.sdhumanities.org.