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Common Reading Program

Common Reading at Rowan

[ Letter to students | Letter to the University Community ]


Dear Students,

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 book selected for 2013-2014 is Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. This book shares the lives and experiences of the residents of a slum, Annawadi, near developing Mumbai, India. Although a word away, we believe you will see and relate to the rich characters, humanity, and tragedy of Annawadi that Boo presents in this engaging book. We encourage students to engage the Rowan University community in discussing the issues of economics, environmental studies, poverty, access to education, sociology, and social justice explored in this nonfiction narrative.

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. You may even get to attend the author's presentation during her campus visit. 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 and we look forward to a mutual sharing of ideas with you upon your arrival in the Rowan community in the Fall.

Happy reading,

Rory McElwee, PhD
Assistant Vice President for Student Retention

Drew Tinnin
Director, Orientation & Student Leadership Programs

Richard Jones
Vice President for Student Life & Dean of Students


Dear Rowan Community,

I am delighted to announce the book selected for Rowan's 2nd annual RU Reading-Together common reading program is Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. This nonfiction narrative describes individual experiences in a desperately impoverished slum near Mumbai, India, in very recent years.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with a Common Reading Program, it involves a committee or faculty, staff and students 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.

Katherine Boo's book provides an ideal platform in that it allows readers to examine moral and ethical issues surrounding social and legal justice, social class, sexism, environmental sustainability and stark global economic inequality. We are extremely fortunate that the author has agreed to visit Rowan on October 21 for a public lecture. Please save the date and stay tuned for details on time and location. This is an event you won’t want to miss!

I encourage the University community to purchase your copy of Behind the Beautiful Forevers 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.

Dr. Houshmand
President Ali Houshmand, PhD