RU Reading Together
Common Reading at Rowan
An ideal University community is one in which all members can engage in shared exploration of ideas that matter. The R U Reading Together common reading program, in which all members of the Rowan community are encouraged to read a selected book and then to explore the themes in that book via multiple avenues, is one of your first opportunities to engage in our lively academic community.
The 2016-2017 book, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is the first novel selected for the R U Reading Together program and was passionately endorsed by the students on our selection committee. Americanah has received numerous accolades, including winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; and being named one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year, Entertainment Weekly Top Fiction Book, and a Goodreads Best of the Year pick. Americanah chronicles the stories of high school sweethearts in Nigeria who, in the face of military dictatorship, emigrate to the United States and London, where they encounter a new conception of race as well as discrimination and xenophobia. From the opening scenes in a Trenton hair braiding salon, you will encounter mind-opening characters and themes of racism, socioeconomic inequality among individuals and among nations, and the power of context to shape identity and perception of others. A beautifully written exploration of themes we encounter daily - identity, race, immigration, relative privilege, social and economic justice -- this book will provide abundant fodder for the Rowan community's exploration of these themes in the 2016-2017 academic year.
This book is also a great introduction to explore the STEP UP concept of Understanding and Appreciating Others. By participating in co-curricular activities around this and other STEP UP concepts, we hope you will achieve success inside and outside of the classroom as an engaged Rowan student. Just some of the ways in which you will likely encounter the book this year will be: discussions in Rowan Seminars and writing courses; featured lectures by Rowan faculty and invited scholars; "book club" type discussions in the residence halls; and much more. Through all of these experiences, you will experience what it’s like to join a scholarly community of curious people.
We very much hope that you will enjoy reading the book this summer. While you are reading Americanah, you will be challenged to think about your own identity and how it relates to the context you’re in right now as well as race and class in America and around the world. We are very much looking forward to exploring the answers to those questions with you in the coming academic year.
Rory McElwee, PhD
Associate Vice President for Student Retention
Senior Director, Orientation & Student Leadership Programs
Vice President for Student Life & Dean of Students
Dear Rowan Community,
I am delighted to announce the book selected for Rowan's 5th annual RU Reading Together common reading program is Americanah, by MacArthur Foundation Fellowship recipient Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The first novel chosen for the R U Reading Together program, Americanah chronicles the stories of high school sweethearts in Nigeria who, in the face of military dictatorship, emigrate to the United States and London, where they encounter a new conception of race as well as discrimination and xenophobia. From the opening scenes in a Trenton hair braiding salon, you will encounter mind-opening characters and themes of racism, socioeconomic inequality among individuals and among nations, and the power of context to shape identity and perception of others. Winner of the the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction, named one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year, Entertainment Weekly Top Fiction Book, and a Goodreads Best of the Year pick, this novel provides the Rowan community with myriad opportunities to engage with powerful ideas and with each other.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with a Common Reading Program, it involves a committee or faculty, staff, and students who select a work of real significance and depth but broad appeal, encouraging as many members of a community as possible to read the book. We will also host a variety of programs and discussion groups where issues are explored and even debated. This is an ideal way of reinforcing the value of the scholarly community that we enjoy at Rowan. At the same time, we can model for our students engagement with ideas and issues through civil discourse.
By reading Americanah together as a community, we can reflect on important issues of race, immigration, xenophobia, and the relativity of identity in different contexts. I encourage the University community to purchase your copy of Americanah and be prepared to join in discussing the book in the fall. To learn more about the book and access learning resources, please visit www.rowan.edu/commonreading. Let the reading, and the conversations, begin.
President Ali Houshmand, PhD