Common Reading Program

Summer Assignments

Message to New First-Year Students

You will receive a copy of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian during your Advising and Registration Day. You are expected to read the book during the summer and bring the book with you to campus in the fall semester.

There will be book talks at New Student Orientation on August 21. Along with bringing your book with you when you move in, bring a picture of where you come from to share and discuss. In addition to the book being discussed in small groups at New Student Orientation, over half of new students will use the book in one or more courses.

Below, please find some questions and material to support you in your exploration of the book during your summer reading experience and to help hone your critical reading skills.

“Reading is thinking. It is an active process of identifying important ideas and comparing, evaluating and applying them.” Kathleen McWhorter, Reading Across the Disciplines (2002)

Questions for before you read: Activate prior knowledge

  • What have you learned in school about American Indians? –Test your “Native IQ”.
  • How have you given back to your community through fundraising, volunteering, or even paid work? Watch for ways in which ‘giving back’ and ‘community’ are featured in the novel. Interested in service-learning opportunities in class or volunteering at SCSU? Check out ways to volunteer at SCSU!
  • How do you think college is going to be different from high school? What changes excite you? What changes scare you?
  • Have you ever made a choice that made your friends feel you were disloyal? How did you handle it?
  • Consider the title of the book and the description on the back cover. What questions do you think this book will answer? How is the narrator likely to be different from you? In what ways might you be the same?

While you read: Focus on values and look for an interpretation

Mark passages or scenes from the book which:

  • you identified with
  • challenged you
  • surprised you
  • you enjoyed

Literature expresses meaning and creates feelings and impressions. Make note of these passages you noticed while you are reading. Think about how you might describe these scenes or talk about them with other students at New Student Orientation.

Why is this reading important?

Pay attention to the medium. It’s a novel, but has many illustrations. What purpose do they serve?

Questions for after you read: Reflect on what you read

  • What issues does Junior’s family/ community face? In what ways are they resilient?
  • In what ways are you like Junior? In what ways are you different?
  • Junior used cartoons to help make sense of the world. What strategies to you have to cope with understanding challenges in your life?
  • How does the book deal with the issue of bullying?
  • Though they reconcile at the end, do you think Rowdy and Arnold can ever really be friends again? How is Rowdy both an enemy and a friend?