Common Read selection promotes exploration of diversity close to home

Tamora Rosenbaum

More than 2,000 SDSU students will read Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” for SDSU’s fall 2012 common read. It will also be read by students in several Brookings public schools as well as participants of Upward Bound and the Brookings Boys and Girls Club according to Honors College Dean Timothy Nichols.

Nichols said that “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” was chosen for this year’s common read because the selection committee believes it will encourage students’ cross-cultural understanding and increase their awareness of diversity.

“After examining global diversity with “Mountains Beyond Mountains” in 2009, “Three Cups of Tea” in 2010 and “Outcasts United” in 2011, there was strong interest in and a commitment to exploring diversity closer to home, and in particular, the Native American experience,” Nichols said.

The book covers complex and sensitive topics such as alcohol, poverty, bullying and death. It has won several awards, including the 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and the 2009 Odyssey Award. Lisa Moran, an English major from Box Elder, S.D., read the book on her own time after hearing about it in a Native American literature course at SDSU. She is glad she did and recommends it highly.

“I read the whole thing from start to finish in one day. It made me look directly at some issues I don’t usually think about, in a way that sometimes made me laugh aloud and other times broke my heart,” she said. “I think everyone could find something to learn from it and something to love about it.”

Author Sherman Alexie will deliver the 2012 Griffith Honors Forum Lecture in Frost Arena Sept. 26. His speech will unofficially kick off the 2012 South Dakota Festival of Books, which runs Sept. 28-29 in Sioux Falls.

The common read experience extends beyond reading the book to include Alexie’s speech as well as seven other activities spaced out through the semester. More information and a calendar for these events can be found at

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is available for purchase through the SDSU Bookstore, Cover to Cover in downtown Brookings and through other bookstores and on-line retailers. Everyone is encouraged to participate in the common read and related activities, which Nichols hopes will be a “positive, unifying and intellectually engaging experience for everyone involved.”