A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that kick-started a Native American literary movement has been selected as the book for this year’s Read This! program, a community book read sponsored by the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.
A series of events are slated around N. Scott Momaday’s “House Made of Dawn,” culminating in a visit by the author at 7 p.m. March 15 in the Stubblefield Center.
Three events centered around the book will occur prior to Momaday’s visit. A celebration of Native American peoples will be held at 10 a.m. Feb. 20 at the Old Gymnasium on UAFS campus, with events running throughout the day until 6 p.m.
A Read Aloud of excerpts from Momaday’s works and other Native American authors is slated from 2-4 p.m. Feb. 24 at the fireplace of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center, and a showing of “The Cherokee Word for Water,” a film about Wilma Mankiller, will occur from 4-6 p.m. March 8 coinciding with International Women’s Day. The showing will be held in room 107 of Windgate Art & Design, the university’s new state-of-the-art visual arts facility.
Published in 1968, “House Made of Dawn” centers on Abel, a Native American and World War II veteran who struggles with isolation and loss of identity following his return to New Mexico following the war. The novel was widely acclaimed and catalyzed a literary movement of Native American writers including Leslie Marmon Silko, Sherman Alexie and Louise Erdrich.
Dr. Cammie Sublette, interim head of the Department of English and committee co-chair, praised the book’s complexity and its contribution to Native American literature.
“‘House Made of Dawn’ examines the complexities of Native American identity through rich imagery and tightly-written prose,” Sublette said. “The book is a classic not just of Native American literature, but also of the wider American literary canon. We are thrilled to be able to introduce such a brilliant book to the Fort Smith community.”
Hailed as “the dean of American Indian writers” by The New York Times, Momaday has earned universal acclaim for his novels, poems, plays and scholarly work. He received the National Medal of Arts in 2007 and has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Mondello, Italy’s highest literary honor.
Dr. Ann-Gee Lee, associate professor of English and co-chair of the Read This! committee, said the novel will help readers learn more about the “rich cultures” of Native Americans.
“The planning process has already been very enlightening. We are honored to have a chance to involve the local Native American groups and learn more about their rich cultures,” Lee said. “We are especially excited to host such a prominent Native American writer who introduced Native American literature to a mainstream readership.”
Dr. Paul Hankins, dean of the College of Communications, Languages, Arts and Social Sciences, said Read This! is integral to the university’s mission of improving quality of place in Fort Smith through the arts.
“The university’s Read This! program has established a record of promoting quality literature to the greater Fort Smith region, complemented by visits from accomplished and prominent writers that offer an in-depth perspective that enriches our appreciation of the work,” Hankins said. “Through this community book read, UAFS has helped garner an appreciation for literature and the arts in the community, and we look forward to continuing that effort with this year’s selection.”
Previous books chosen for the Read This! program are “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon, “The Sunflower” by Simon Wiesenthal and “True Grit” by Charles Portis.
Admission to the talk is free, but tickets are required. For tickets, contact the UAFS Box Office at 479-788-7300. For more information about Read This!, contact Sublette at 479-788-7615 or Cammie.firstname.lastname@example.org, or Lee at 479-788-7363 or email@example.com.