Book club brings students and faculty together

Sam Rosenthal

sarosenthal@ursinus.edu

One Book, One Ursinus provides a welcome opportunity to escape the obsession with grades in academia. By discussing “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, students get a chance to interact with faculty from all departments in a casual environment.

Inspired by One Book, One Philadelphia, this new club lets students put themselves on an equal ground of discourse with professors. It doesn’t matter who you are, because everyone is discussing the same book for the same club this semester, so everyone can talk about the book in an informed manner.

“The best thing is when you hear from someone that you didn’t hear from before or expect to hear from. As a teacher, I’m always happy when something touches a quiet student and encourages that person to speak up.”

—Dr. Meredith Goldsmith Professor of English and Associate Dean

“The best thing is when you hear from someone that you didn’t hear from before or expect to hear from. As a teacher, I’m always happy when something touches a quiet student and encourages that person to speak up,” said Dr. Meredith Goldsmith, Professor of English and Associate Dean.

The club is possible because of the Inclusive Community Grant. “We received an Inclusive Community Grant from the President’s Office to purchase the books, so we were able to make those available [for] free to community members… We’re hoping to make a reading of a common texts dealing with race in America, by an African American author or an author of African heritage, an annual event starting in Black History Month and going through the spring semester,” Goldsmith said.

Students make their presence known, but the club is unique
in its active participation from faculty. “In the first discussion event, my table was a mix of faculty, staff, and students, and it was wonderful to hear each person’s perspective on the novel, in particular how it relates to their experience. I think this initiative attracts an equal mix of faculty, staff, and students because ultimately we are all at Ursinus for the same purpose: to learn interesting things in the presence of interesting people. I think it’s been particularly fun for students and faculty, because although we’re used to reading and discussing books together, we don’t often get to do so without the pressures of deadlines and grades,” Said Dr. Talia Argondezzi, Director of the Center for Writing and Speaking Program.

The diversity of student and faculty is reflected in the diversity of the author of “Americanah,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who is Nigerian. The themes of identity provide interesting discussion topics because of their complexity and intersectionality. “Americanah is a wonderful novel with a lot of ways in. It’s about a heroine who is a Nigerian immigrant to the United States, a young woman considering the options and opportunities available to her (romantic, professional), and –– perhaps most importantly –– a person of color who didn’t consider herself ‘black’ until she arrived in this country. So the book allows us to see race in the United States from an outsider’s perspective. The heroine, Ifemelu, is also a wonderfully frank, at times unsparing character –– she calls it like she sees it! These topics sound quite heavy, but it’s also a very funny, accessible novel,” Goldsmith said.

Despite the novel’s fun

“I think it’s been particularly fun for students and faculty, because although we’re used to reading and discussing books together, we don’t often get to do so without the pressures of deadlines and grades.”

—Dr. Talia Argondezzi Director of the Center for

nature, only a few avid readers were at the event last week. “The event is planned for everyone and we welcome students, faculty, and staff. This first event was mostly staff members. We’d love to get more students in,” said Goldsmith.

One Book, One Ursinus will have breakfast together on Thursday, March 28 at 9:00 in the morning, with what is sure to be another fulfilling discussion of “Americanah.”