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September 10, 2013

Author, comic to speak at SUNY Oneonta

Native American author Sherman Alexie might be considered a contemporary Mark Twain in his ability to present serious topics in a light vein, a professor at the State University College at Oneonta said Sunday.

Alexie will present “Without Reservations: An Urban Indian’s Comic, Poetic & Highly Irreverent Look at the World” in the college’s Alumni Fieldhouse tonight at 7:30.

“He uses humor to get us to come to common ground to talk about hot-button issues,” said Susan Bernardin, a professor in the English department and chairwoman of the women’s and gender studies department. “He is someone who gets people thinking.”

Through support of the College Foundation, Alexie’s presentation of the college’s Mills Distinguished Lecture is free and open to the public. Tickets are required and may be reserved at www.oneonta.edu/commonread/.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for Oneonta,” Bernardin said.

Alexie’s novel “Flight” is the basis of the common-read program on campus. First-year students were asked to read “Flight” in an initiative to engage participants and to infuse cultural literacy into academics across several disciplines this semester, college officials said.

Professors in English, education, psychology and biology are among the participants, Bernardin said, who led two workshops on implementing the work into course work.

Bernardin, who has taught Alexie’s work for 16 years, said she suggested “Flight” for the common-read project. Alexie’s works are “highly accessible,” including to people who don’t consider themselves “literary readers,” she said.

“Flight” is a coming-of-age novel that addresses enduring ethical predicaments, such as the nature and origin of violence and the nature of justice, Bernardin said.

On Tuesday, Alexie will address students in two sessions and faculty in a third, before appearing for the lecture, which will be followed by a question-and-answer session and a book-signing, she said.

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