Classic, controversial YA novel named 2014 ‘Common Read’

Common_read_2014_jThe Center for Student Success at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is thrilled to announce that Sherman Alexie’s award-winning young-adult novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” will be the 2014 UWM Common Read.

All first-year students attending UWM for the fall 2014 semester will receive a free copy of the illustrated book at their New Student Orientation. Students are expected to read the book in preparation for guided reading groups, led by university faculty and staff during UWM Fall Welcome, Aug. 27-30.

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is UWM’s third annual common-read selection. Kao Kalia Yang’s “The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir” was the 2013 selection. The 2014 UWM Common Read Experience is co-sponsored by the Student Success Center and the Center for Instructional and Professional Development.

The selection committee, led by Emily Clark of UWM’s Center for 21st Century Studies, selected the book in part for its inclusion of the historical legacy of white violence against native populations in the United States.

Inclusion is one key theme within the book. Transition is another, and one that Clark feels will resonate strongly with the university’s class of incoming students.

“The book deals with issues of transitioning from the comforts of a home environment to a new, challenging environment, and, in particular, a challenging educational environment,” Clark says.

Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie

Other relevant themes in the book are educational inequality, structural racism, poverty and cultural appropriation. “Importantly,” says Clark, “the book addresses these issues while managing to present nuanced and often positive portrayals of characters of all races, sexes and income levels.”

The sensitivity and diversity of content as packaged by author Alexie – noted novelist, comedian, screenwriter and poet – garnered instant critical praise, chart-topping sales and occasional entry on the “banned books” lists of some school boards. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

The 2014 Selection Committee included the following students, faculty and staff: Abigail Amissah-Arthur, Carl Bogner, Rachel Buff, Emily Clark, Jennifer Daood, Aaron Dobbs, Elizabeth Drame, Mark Eckman, Samantha Glazer, Kim Huettl, Jessica Hutchings, Jessica Nastal, Liana J. Odrcic, Sabine Schwark, Kari Smith, Katie Witz and Dina Wolf.