Monthly Archives: April 2010

Emory University PhD student explains why you should bring Rebecca Skloot to your campus

Laura E. Mariani is a second-year PhD student of Neuroscience at Emory University who writes about her experiences on her blog, Neurotypical.  Last month she wrote at length about a recent student seminar and talk given at the university by Rebecca Skloot, author of the New York Times bestselling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks:

When I originally invited Rebecca to come to Emory, I imagined a reading and book signing similar to the ones I’ve attended in the past… This event surpassed my expectations. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks [sic] connects with people on an intimate, emotional level, and inspires readers to ask themselves hard questions about life and death, love and loss, right and wrong. Rebecca presents years of meticulous research with an engaging writing style to educate her audience without patronizing or preaching. She describes the members of the Lacks family, their history, and her own relationships with them in a way that reminds us that these characters are not just characters, but real people with complex personalities and tragically human problems. After a reflective introduction by Emory’s Senior Vice Provost, Ozzie Harris, Rebecca’s straightforward narrative left the large crowd completely rapt at her reading.

Read all of Laura’s blog post.

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The Other Wes Moore and Oprah

Oprah alert! Author Wes Moore will be on the Oprah Winfrey Show today speaking about his new book, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.

Bringing issues of identity, diversity, education and service to new light in a unique and intriguing way, the book tells the story of two kids with the same name living in the same decaying city. One went on to be a Rhodes Scholar, a decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow and business leader.  The other is serving a life sentence in prison.

Additionally, be sure to read Mr. Moore’s original piece, A Message to Educators, on the RHI Magazine blog, in which he addresses the needs of American school systems saying: “I am living proof that a support system of family, mentors and educators is critical for success and as such, have the most tremendous respect for those of you who give tirelessly of yourselves to improve the future of a child.”

Mr. Moore will be speaking at the 2011 First-Year Experience conference next February, so mark your calendars! You won’t want to miss it.

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Win a FREE copy of Look Me in the Eye !

CommonReads is bringing you another chance to win a wonderful and timely book for your program’s consideration.

Ever since he was small, John Robison had longed to connect with other people, but by the time he was a teenager, his odd habits—an inclination to blurt out non sequiturs, avoid eye contact, dismantle radios, and dig five-foot holes (and stick his younger brother in them)—had earned him the label “social deviant.”

Selected by Defiance College and SUNY Potsdam for their common reading programs and also used in high school and college courses throughout the country, Look Me in the Eye is the story of one man’s struggle with Aspberger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, before the diagnosis ever existed. It is also a look into the family life he left at age sixteen to go on the road with KISS for (whom he created  legendary fire-breathing guitars) and a reverse angle glimpse at the younger brother he left behind, who would later change his name to Augusten Burroughs and pen Running With Scissors.

Comment below for your chance to win one of FIVE copies of Look Me in the Eye. Offer is available only in the United States.

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Rhode Island reads The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Rhode Island Center for the Book at the Providence Public Library kicked off their 2010 common reading selection last month, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  Culminating in a sold-out breakfast with Annie Barrows on May 1, programming has included a videoconference with the author, Living Literature segments at various library branches, and a program on Guernsey, England and the United States during World War II.

The novel, which follows a writer’s journey to the British Island of Guernsey and into a secret society borne during the Second World War’s German occupation, has also been selected by the community of Saratoga Springs, New York and is a Library Journal Best Book of 2008.

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Students find inspiration in The Road of Lost Innocence during humanitarian trip to Cambodia

A couple of months ago we brought you news that West Texas A&M University has selected Somaly Mam’s memoir, The Road of Lost Innocence for use in their common reading program. Mam was sold into sexual slavery at the age of six but harrowingly escaped and now devotes her time and energy to helping others throughout her native Cambodia and other countries.

Last month, parents in the city of Cambridge, Massachussetts (inspired by Mam’s memoir as well as another popular common reading title, Cups of Tea) decided to raise money to help build a school in rural Cambodia in a project they dubbed Camb2Camb. Eight junior high and high school students were selected for a trip to the country through an application process. Prior to departure they researched topics they might encounter while in Cambodia such as  human trafficking, women’s rights, and the Khmer Rouge tribunals. The Road of Lost Innocence became pre-trip required reading.

While in Cambodia, students engaged in a number of activities including a dinner with Mam during which she spoke about her experiences as a sex slave and how she has helped free others.

The high school students kept online blogs during their trips. “I CAN’T STOP SMILING!” wrote Violet Brooks-Doucette. “Everyday I reflect on what we did and I say to myself, ‘today was the greatest day of my life,’ then the next day I say the exact same thing!”

For more information on the Camb2Camb project, read this article from Wicked Local Cambridge.

Want to inspire your students and promote service to others? E-mail rhacademic@randomhouse.com for a list of useful titles that are great for common reading programs.

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University of Wisconsin – Madison on board with The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The University of Wisconsin – Madison is the latest university to have adopted Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for their 2010/11 common reading program. Along with Virginia Commonwealth University, students at the University of Wisconsin – Madison will read this new biography about the woman whose cells, taken without her permission and now known as HeLa cells, have helped in the discovery of medical treatments for everything from polio to leukemia.

In a news release for their Go Big Read program, UW – Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin says of the books adoption, “”In addition to being a great read, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is cross-disciplinary and relevant, and will engage students and readers on a number of intellectual and personal levels.”

Ken Frazier, director of UW-Madison Libraries and a member of the Go Big Read Steering Committee also stated, “Our reviewers were drawn to this book because it is compelling and readable as a story and intensely interesting in the way it handles complex ethical and scientific issues. I can’t imagine any book that would be a better gateway to the intellectual richness of UW-Madison.”

Has your committee considered The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks? If you have read the book, or read anything about it, let others know what you think by leaving a comment here!

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College of the Redwoods & Humboldt State U to have Plenty to talk about!

College of the Redwoods and Humboldt State University have adopted Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon as their CommonBook  for the coming academic year.

Also selected for common reading at Colorado Mountain College and a One Book, One Community Choice in Alliance, OH, this book chronicles the remarkable and inspiring adventures of a Canadian couple who made a year-long attempt to eat foods grown and produced within a 100-mile radius of their apartment.

For more books on sustainability and enviornmental topics visit our First Year Reading page.

Also check out the recent Green books! post for information on other books like this one!

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