Whitman chooses Sherman Alexie’s “Reservation Blues” for Summer Read Program

Reservation Blues cover

Sherman Alexi
Sherman Alexie. Read his bio (PDF) »

Faculty panels, special events, and a visit from the author scheduled for fall 2014

Whitman College’s annual Summer Read Program offers new students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the College’s academic culture during orientation. As part of the program, Whitman’s incoming freshmen are asked to read a chosen book in advance of their arrival to campus and be prepared to discuss it with faculty and fellow students during their first week on campus.

This year’s selection is “Reservation Blues” by Sherman Alexie, one of America’s most widely recognized and award-winning authors. Recipient of an American Book Award, National Book Award for Young People, Odyssey Award for audiobooks and a PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction writing, Alexie writes from his experiences as a Native American with ancestry of several tribes, having grown up on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

The book is a fictional tale of a reservation blues band, its members and their life on the reservation and travels in touring and performing in clubs throughout the Northwest. Using magical realism and portrayals of reservation life drawn from his own youth, Alexie depicts the struggles that band and tribal members have with alcoholism, poverty, racism, political corruption and abuse. He “catches the ancient and the contemporary, the solemn and the self-mocking, at once; he evokes dreary days of watching black-and-white television reruns in a place where … ‘Indian Health only gave out dental floss and condoms.’ … He creates stinging commentary and he shows his determination to make you uncertain whether you want to laugh or cry.” (NY Times, July 16, 1995)

“I invite all Whitman College faculty and staff—as well as the Walla Walla community at large—to join our new students in reading this compelling work and to participate in Summer Read Program activities over the course of the next academic year,” said President George Bridges.

Supporting events include a faculty panel presentation on August 31, which will explore key themes and issues from Alexie’s book from the perspectives of different disciplines, and a visit from the author on October 1. During his campus visit, Alexie will deliver a lecture and share personal anecdotes from “Reservation Blues”, his life experiences and his many other works. Additional special events, including guest lectures, concerts, and art projects reflecting major themes from “Reservation Blues”, will take place throughout the fall. All events will be held on the Whitman College campus and are free and open to campus community as well as the public.

To encourage participation beyond the Whitman College campus, the College has purchased copies of the book for Walla Walla area libraries. “Reservation Blues” is already available for purchase at the Whitman College Bookstore.