This spring, we’ll read Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother as the common reading. This book about “extreme parenting” raises questions about how families interact, what the role of parents should be, and cultural differences that shape family dynamics. It’s a funny, sometimes disturbing, tender, and controversial book about “a mother, two daughters, and two dogs” and “a bitter clash of cultures.” It should provide interesting food for discussion.
This spring, we’re reading a novel by Sherman Alexie, Reservation Blues, about a group of friends living on the Spokane Indian reservation in eastern Washington state who decide to form a band and take their music on the road. It’s funny, and tragic, and sometimes mystical but also down-to-earth. Though this story reveals a lot about poverty, alcoholism, and violence of reservation life, it is also filled with love, respect, fury at social injustice, and reflections on what it means to belong.
Alexie is a poet, short-story author, novelist, filmmaker, critic, musician, and performer. His young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian won the National Book Award in 2007 and has been chosen as a reading in common book for many college campuses. He grew up on the Spokane Indian reservation and now lives in Seattle.
Reading Workshop is a .25 pass/fail course designed to give students who wish they had more time the permission to read (and a bit of credit, too). In the first half of the spring semester, 2012, we’ll be meeting on Wednesday afternoons from 2:30 till 3:50 to discuss Zeitoun by Dave Eggers and to explore the role of reading for pleasure in your life.
Zeitoun is a non-fiction account of a man who stayed in New Orleans when Katrina hit. It’s a compelling story about his experiences in the flooded city, his eventual arrest and detention, and how his family tried to discover what had happened. It offers a lot to talk about, including how we as a people respond to disasters, both natural and man-made, how Arab-Americans are viewed in post-9/11 America, what is just, and what it means to do the right thing. We’ll also talk about how to tell true stories in a way that does justice to the complexity of truth.
In addition to reading and talking about this book, each student will read a book of her or his choosing, will write a brief review of their book to share online, and will develop a reading list for those time when the pressure is off and you have an opportunity to read a good book.
We offer these courses because students like to read but rarely find time to do so just for fun. We want to provide that time and give students a chance to think about their own reading tastes and to develop a list of books that they would like to read someday – because reading books that appeal to you is an important part of lifelong learning, and we don’t want you to be stumped when you think to yourself “what should I read next?”
I’m not sure who to blame: my fellow librarian Julie Gilbert for sharing my passion for books and reading or Rebecca Skloot for writing such an intriguing book. All I know is that when a recent Lindell Scholar found that, contrary to popular belief, our students actually enjoy reading, Julie and I began brainstorming ways to make it easier for students to find books they want to read. But we weren’t sure what to do about students’ number one reason for not reading: lack of time.When I read a prepublication review of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, I was struck by an idea: what if the library offered something like the fitness courses that the HES department does? What if we gave students a chance to read books they would enjoy reading and discussing together in exchange for a smidgen of academic credit? And so this course was born.
The learning goals for this course are as modest as the amount of credit students will earn. In this course I hope you will learn
**the value of reading and discussing books, even when not required
**how to analyze your own reading preferences
**some practical means of discovering books you are likely to enjoy
**a little bit about the role that books and reading play in society
The book chosen to inaugurate our first Reading Workshop is the one that inspired the course – Rebecca Skloot’s fascinating book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
*In case you are wondering, yes, “Reading Workshop” is a play on words, evoking the concept of “workshopping” used by writers.