common read takes flight

Celebrated Native American writer Sherman Alexie presented SUNY Oneonta's Mills Distinguished Lecture, "Without Reservations: An Urban Indian's Comic, Poetic & Highly Irreverent Look at the World," on Sept. 10 to a packed arena of more than 2,500 students, faculty, staff and community members.

In a no-holds-barred lecture full of jokes and jabs, Alexie recounted his experience growing up poor on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington, and his life-changing decision to attend a high school where he was the only Indian—except for the school mascot.

Alexie's appearance was the centerpiece of SUNY Oneonta's inaugural common read, a college initiative to enhance first-year student engagement and further infuse cultural literacy into academics by asking all incoming freshmen to read and discuss a diversity-related book. 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, and the book was incorporated into fall courses across several disciplines. While on campus for his lecture, Alexie discussed the novel with small groups of students and faculty.

National Book Award winner Sherman Alexie discusses his 2007 novel, Flight, with SUNY Oneonta students.
Photo by Michael Forster Rothbart

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