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Open Books - Open Minds has been reimagining the role of the common book at Rhode Island College.

A Whole-School Approach

From its inception in 2006 at RIC, Open Books – Open Minds (OBOM) has engaged students in dialogue with the college and Rhode Island communities. We now envision a broader scope for the program, which continues to encourage the participation of freshmen in OBOM as we expand our year-long series of events inspired by the common book to involve students from all academic levels and diverse disciplines.​

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This Year's 2023-2024 Common Book

Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke

2023-2024 Common Book: Seek You by Kristen Radke

There is a silent epidemic in America: loneliness. Shameful to talk about and often misunderstood, loneliness is everywhere, from the most major of metropolises to the smallest of towns.

In Seek You, Kristen Radtke's wide-ranging exploration of our inner lives and public selves, Radtke digs into the ways in which we attempt to feel closer to one another, and the distance that remains. Through the lenses of gender and violence, technology and art, Radtke ushers us through a history of loneliness and longing, and shares what feels impossible to share. Ranging from the invention of the laugh-track to the rise of Instagram, the bootstrap-pulling cowboy to the brutal experiments of Harry Harlow, Radtke investigates why we engage with each other, and what we risk when we turn away. With her distinctive, emotionally-charged drawings and deeply empathetic prose, Kristen Radtke masterfully shines a light on some of our most vulnerable and sublime moments, and asks how we might keep the spaces between us from splitting entirely.

KRISTEN RADTKE is the author of the graphic nonfiction books Seek You and Imagine Wanting Only This. The recipient of a 2019 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant, Radtke is the art director and deputy publisher of The Believer. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Marie Claire, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, and Harper's, among many other publications.

Kristen Radtke’s website

Seek You Reading Guide

Recent Press

Read the recent story in The Anchor newspaper: Open Books - Open Minds Unites RIC Community in Discussion, by Sophia DiNaro.


Open Books - Open Minds Teaching Roundtable

  • Wednesday, September 13, 12:30–2 pm
  • FCTL, Adams Library 406

Join us for a roundtable about teaching this year’s Open Books – Open Minds book, Kristen Radtke’s Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness. We will have informal presentations and discussion of strategies and approaches to use in the classroom, with perspectives from different disciplines, including psychology, art history, and others. Bring your lunch! Open to all faculty, staff, and students

A Screening of Persepolis

  • Tuesday, October 10, 2023, 10 am
  • Alger Hall, Room 110

Persepolis will be of interest to anyone reading this year’s OBOM selection, Kristen Radtke’s Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, both because it is told in animated (graphic) format and because loneliness is an important theme of the book. This animated film is based on the autobiographical graphic memoir by Marjane Satrapi. It was a co-winner of the Cannes Jury Prize and nominee for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. We hope to see you at the screening!

OBOM and Film Studies Program Collaboration

Watch out for this exciting collaboration! RIC Film Studies and OBOM present an original, multi-media story about life, loneliness, and seeking connection in 2023 produced by RIC film students. Our fictional web series premieres on YouTube in November, with parts of the story also told though the Instagram and TikTok accounts of our characters. Follow us on Instagram for updates and behind the scenes info.

Annual Student Conference

  • Coming April 2024

Watch for more information about our Annual Student Conference: a great opportunity for students to showcase their work related to the year’s common book.

More Details on the OBOM Program

Become a Student Discussion Leader!

What is an OBOM Mentor or Discussion Leader?

Any student, sophomore and above, who works closely with an Instructor to help lead discussions on the common book selection for that year.

What does a discussion leader have to do?
  • Pre-register for COLL 202.
  • Meet with the host instructor to discuss your role.
  • Participate in Open Books - Open Minds programs.
  • Write a paper for COLL202 that you could submit to the spring student conference.
What does the student discussion leader get?
  • One college course credit
  • Great one-on-one experience with a talented Instructor!
  • Active involvement in campus events as well as with other faculty, staff, and administrators outside of the usual contexts.
  • A chance to engage undergraduates who see you as a model and a student leader.

Become a Faculty Host!

Who is a faculty host?

Any RIC Instructor who shall be teaching the common book in class and would like to have an upper-level student help with those discussions.

What does a faculty host have to do?
  • Teach the common book.
  • Meet with the discussion leader to discuss his/her role in your class.
  • Apprentice the discussion leader by modeling effective teaching strategies.
What does a faculty host get?
  • A chance to mentor bright undergraduates and also engage them as intellectual peers.
  • Opportunity to provide your students with an example of active student participation at work!
  • A chance to draw from the OBOM events (including the student conference) as components of your course.

Open Books - Open Minds is the Rhode Island College common book program. This initiative brings together first-year students early in their first semester at RIC, and links them with upper-level peers, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and the greater Rhode Island community through book discussions and participation in a rich array of programs and activities. A series of lectures, round-table discussions, and film screenings culminate in the annual Open Books – Open Minds Student Conference in the spring, where students showcase their writing and research on the book itself or issues inspired by the reading.

The American Democracy Project at Rhode Island College commenced Open Books-Open Minds during the spring semester 2006. After considerable input and deliberation, committee members selected Lynda Barry's The Good Times Are Killing Me as our inaugural book. One reviewer has described Barry's work as "a provocative, cross-disciplinary tour de force" embracing tough social issues in a deft, yet deceptively simple manner. Barry's book is a story plainly told yet powerfully effective. We are hopeful that the story will spark community discussion of a wide-ranging nature. While the goal of the project is intellectual engagement, the common-book project reminds us that learning takes place outside of the classroom, in any venue where people value the power and the pleasure of an open exchange of ideas.

In support of these efforts, we invited members of the Rhode Island community to read the book and to participate in the rich array of Rhode Island College events and programs related to Barry's novel.

We hope that the Open Books-Open Minds project will become a valued tradition of our community. This program was initiated from Rhode Island College's active involvement in the American Democracy Project (ADP). The ADP is a long-term endeavor involving 188 academic institutions, jointly coordinated by the New York Times and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), and designed to foster informed civic engagement in the United States. Rhode Island College is proud to be one of the first colleges in the nation to participate in this important initiative. The goals for the ADP are entirely consistent with the goals of Rhode Island College as an institution committed to academic excellence, to the value of life lived in service to others, and to the personal and professional success of its graduates. The ADP and the Common Book Project allow us to work towards fostering a caring community informed by serious inquiry, civic engagement, and open discourse where dedicated faculty strive to pass on the promise of the liberal arts education: an open and understanding mind. Please join us and become a part of this important endeavor.

The Open Books-Open Minds Committee Welcomes Your Suggestions for Future Books!

Guidelines for Selection of the OBOM Common Book
  • The book must be selected for reasons of distinction (for example, excellent treatment of a particular theme, and the quality of the writing), but must also be accessible to entering freshmen, in terms of language, length, and availability (including price).
  • The book must be one that is likely to interest many freshmen, possibly because of its theme (coming of age, for example), timeliness (in relation to local events or controversial issues, for example), or outside publicity related to it.
  • It is desirable that the book be one that can easily be incorporated into at least one of the courses most students take freshman year.
  • The topic of the book should offer interesting programming opportunities, including the potential for an author visit which should be considered early in the selection process.
  • The book should not be one that many of our students read in high school.​

Please email book suggestions to Include the title, author, and any other pertinent details.

Related Events

Common Book Archive AY 2017-2023


The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half cover and author Brit Bennett

#1 New York Times Bestseller

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.

Previous Events

Film Screening of "Passing"

Monday, February 13, 2023, 10:00 a.m.
Student Union 307

Please join Open Books - Open Minds for a screening of "Passing", a film adapted from the novel by Nella Larsen. All are welcome!

View event details for "Passing"


Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born A Crime book cover by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

A performance from Athol Fugard's Master Harold and the Boys, directed and performed by RIC students Olivia Merrit, Autumn Jefferson, and Olivia Lancellotta

Fugard's award-winning play, Master Harold and the Boys (1982) is set in 1950s apartheid-ruled South Africa.  Join us for this intriguing performance of the climactic scene, to be followed by discussion with the directors/performers.

March 22nd, 4 p.m.


There There by Tommy Orange

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"Tommy Orange’s wondrous and shattering novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Among them is Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. Dene Oxendene, pulling his life together after his uncle’s death and working at the powwow to honor his memory. Fourteen-year-old Orvil, coming to perform traditional dance for the very first time. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American—grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism. Hailed as an instant classic, There There is at once poignant and unflinching, utterly contemporary and truly unforgettable." – Penguin Random House

About the Author

"Tommy Orange is a graduate of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. An enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, he was born and raised in Oakland, California." – Penguin Random House


The OBOM committee and the Adams Library wish to acknowledge that Rhode Island College sits on the traditional homelands of the Narragansett and Wampanoag peoples. We acknowledge the painful history of genocide and forced removal from this territory, and we honor and respect the many diverse Indigenous peoples still connected to this land on which we gather. It is important to understand the long-standing history that has brought the college to reside on this land, and to seek to understand our roles within that history.

"A Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement." Native Governance Center
This guide describes the importance of land acknowledgment and tips for creating an acknowledgment statement.


Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

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Growing up in rural Minnesota, Jahren spent her happiest hours with her father, who taught physics and earth science at a local community college and gave his daughter free rein in his laboratory after hours. In Lab Girl, Jahren traces her path from an early infatuation with the natural world to her hard-earned triumphs as a scientist recognized for breakthrough contributions to her field. She braids together stories of her emotional and professional challenges, of the bond with her odd and brilliant lab partner who helped her persevere, and descriptions of plant life that, at once lyrical and precise, reveal the unseen processes driving the natural world. Through these different perspectives, she draws unexpected connections between plants and the people whose lives depend on them that will make you see both realms in a new light.” – The Publisher

About the Author

Hope Jahren is an American geochemist and geobiologist at the University of Oslo in Norway, known for her work using stable isotope analysis to analyze fossil forests dating to the Eocene. She has won many prestigious awards in the field, including the James B. Macelwane Medal of the American Geophysical Union.

She is the author of both Lab Girl (2016) and The Story of More (2020) as well as numerous peer-reviewed publications.


Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

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In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through...

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

About the Author

Mohsin Hamid is the author of four novels -- Moth SmokeThe Reluctant FundamentalistHow to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, and Exit West -- and a book of essays, Discontent and Its Civilizations. His writing has been translated into forty languages, featured on bestseller lists, and adapted for the cinema. Born in Lahore, he has spent about half his life there and much of the rest in London, New York, and California.


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Hailed by Toni Morrison as "required reading," a bold and personal literary exploration of America's racial history. In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation's history and current crisis. Coates shares with his son--and readers--the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children's lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.​

About the Author

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a distinguished writer in residence at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. He is the author of the bestselling books The Beautiful StruggleWe Were Eight Years in Power, and Between The World And Me, which won the National Book Award in 2015. His first novel, The Water Dancer, was released in September 2019. Ta-Nehisi is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. He is also the current author of the Marvel comics The Black Panther and Captain America.

Common Book Archive AY 2013-2017


The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

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“Is Google making us stupid?” When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic Monthly cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?

Now, Carr expands his argument into the most compelling exploration of the Internet’s intellectual and cultural consequences yet published. As he describes how human thought has been shaped through the centuries by “tools of the mind”—from the alphabet to maps, to the printing press, the clock, and the computer—Carr interweaves a fascinating account of recent discoveries in neuroscience by such pioneers as Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel. Our brains, the historical and scientific evidence reveals, change in response to our experiences. The technologies we use to find, store, and share information can literally reroute our neural pathways.”  – W. W. Norton & Company

About the Author

“Nicholas Carr is the author of The Shallows, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, as well as The Big Switch and Does IT Matter? His articles and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, the New York Times, the Wall Street JournalWired, and the New Republic, and he writes the widely read blog Rough Type. He has been writer-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley, and an executive editor of the Harvard Business Review.” – W.W. Norton & Company


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

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“Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who—from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister—dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú—a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA. Encapsulating Dominican-American history, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao opens our eyes to an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and explores the endless human capacity to persevere—and risk it all—in the name of love.” – Riverhead Books

About the Author

“Junot Díaz holds the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, a success he adds to an already long list of accolades that have been awarded to his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. A true literary triumph, this heartbreaking, at times hilarious, always dazzling story of the endless human capacity to persevere in the name of love confirms Díaz as one of the best and most exciting literary voices of our time...

Most recently, Díaz has released another short story collection titled This Is How You Lose Her, which has already received an incredible amount of praise and recognition from critics all over the world. In the collection, Díaz uses his talent to write about the haunting and impossible power of love. Díaz’s debut short story collection, Drown, was also a publishing sensation and is now a landmark of contemporary literature. His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Best American Short Stories.

Díaz was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. He now lives in New York City and Boston, where he teaches at MIT.” – Penguin Random House


Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks

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Musicophilia explores the uniquely human phenomenon of music, from its various roles in human lives to its therapeutic power. Neurologist Oliver Sacks, famed for his entertaining books about the brain and its disorders, shares stories about the unusual symptoms and recoveries of his patients and correspondents. His characteristic compassion and curiosity engage the reader's interest in an exploration of music's power, the place it occupies in the brain, and how it affects human lives.

Sacks not only examines perfect pitch and synesthesia, but some extremely unusual developments in musical skill, as well as musical hallucinations, dreams, and disorders. Brain activity related to music provides some hints, but its complexity leaves us with more mysteries than certainties.  The individual experiences of patients, musicians, and ordinary people provide insights and Sacks's tales prove music's power to lift depression, move our bodies, stimulate memories, or torment us with repetition and dysharmonia.

Music therapy offers more certainty through practice than theory, offering tremendous comfort to patients with brain damage and degenerative neuropathies. Expressive aphasia (a loss of spoken language), when not accompanied by amusia (the inability to produce or comprehend music), is generally treatable with music therapy. Similarly, for young children, music lessons correlate with early development of reading skills. Sacks illustrates the role of music therapy in treating Tourette's Syndrome, Parkinson's Disease, and various forms of dementia with engaging stories of real people and their experiences, while his extensive bibliography expands on the science that supports his observations.

About the Author

Oliver Sacks, M.D. is a physician, a best-selling author, and a professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine.
He is best known for his collections of neurological case histories, including The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat (1985), Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (2007) and The Mind’s Eye (2010). Awakenings (1973), his book about a group of patients who had survived the great encephalitis lethargica epidemic of the early-twentieth century, inspired the 1990 Academy Award-nominated feature film directed by Penny Marshall, and starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. The New York Times has referred to him as “the poet laureate of medicine.”

Dr. Sacks is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


PYM: A Novel by Mat Johnson

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Inspired by the mysterious ending of Edgar Allan Poe's strange and only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, this novel follows Christopher Jaynes, professor of African American Literature, who discovers a crudely crafted manuscript reportedly written by a real survivor of the Poe adventure -- half breed Indian/dark-skinned freedman, Dirk Peters. Ship's cook on Poe's fictional Antarctic voyage that erupted in mutiny, Dirk Peters not only led the uprising, but survived starvation, cannibalism, Antarctic ice and albino giants. Attaining Tsalal, a tropical isle of horrific blackness according to Poe's description, Peters offers a very different account than Pym.

Our protagonist, Christopher Jaynes, is dismissed from his post as professor of African American Literature for refusing to join the college Diversity Committee, and devoting too much time to the study of Whiteness, rather than Blackness, so he organizes an Antarctic journey to pursue his research. Jaynes manages to collect a posse of black friends to help him pursue Peters' tale of ice caves, white Antarctic giants, and the mythical land of Tsalal. What ensues is an amazing tale of ice, slavery, adventure, popular art, Armageddon, rat poison, and Little Debbie snack cakes. Perhaps we could sum it up as an absurdist science fiction sequel to Poe's Pym. No doubt it is a picaresque novel in its own right, but perhaps also a parody of fantasy meta-fiction? Or simply a black comedy about whiteness? Whatever we call it, it is a very funny book.

About the Author

"Born to an Irish-American father and an African American mother and raised in the Philadelphia area, Mat Johnson writes primarily about the lives of African Americans, using fiction, nonfiction and graphic novels as mediums. He is the author of the novels PYM (2011), Hunting in Harlem (2003), and Drop (2000); the nonfiction novella The Great Negro Plot; and the graphic novels Incognegro (2008), Dark Rain (2010), and Right State (2012).

Until 2000, Johnson was a regular columnist for New York's Time Out magazine. His column, entitled "Utter Matness," dealt with a wide breadth of issues--some funny, some serious, but all thought-provoking. Johnson also wrote a blog from 2006-2007 entitled "Niggerati Manor," which discussed African American literature and culture.

In 2007, Johnson was named the first USA James Baldwin Fellow by the United States Artists Foundation, a public charity that supports and promotes the work of American artists. He was awarded the 2011 John Dos Passos Prize for Literature, and prestigious Hurston-Wright Legacy Award for fiction. He is also a recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. Mat Johnson is a faculty member at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program."


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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Henrietta Lacks was a young African American woman, treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital for cervical cancer in 1950. She was from Virginia, but Johns Hopkins was the closest hospital that would treat African Americans at that time. Though she died of cancer, her tumor cells lived on and, in fact, were extraordinarily reproductive: the "HeLa" cell strain became fundamental in subsequent medical research. Until the publication of Skloot's book, Henrietta Lacks's contribution to science was essentially forgotten. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has highlighted Lacks's role in contemporary bio-medical research as well as issues of exploitation, ownership, consent, and racial inequality. It has been a best seller since its publication in 2010.

About the Author

"Rebecca Skloot is an award-winning science writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times MagazineO, The Oprah MagazineDiscover; and many others. She is coeditor of The Best American Science Writing 2011 and has worked as a correspondent for NPR's Radiolab and PBS's Nova ScienceNOW. She was named one of five surprising leaders of 2010 by the Washington Post. Skloot's debut book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, took more than a decade to research and write, and instantly became a New York Times bestseller. It was chosen as a best book of 2010 by more than sixty media outlets, including Entertainment WeeklyPeople, and the New York Times. It is being translated into more than twenty-five languages, adapted into a young reader edition, and being made into an HBO film produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball. Skloot is the founder and president of The Henrietta Lacks Foundation. She has a B.S. in biological sciences and an MFA in creative nonfiction. She has taught creative writing and science journalism at the University of Memphis, the University of Pittsburgh, and New York University. She lives in Chicago." – Random House


When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

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This powerful first novel describes a Japanese family’s displacement from its home in Berkeley to an internment camp. After the father is arrested in 1942 on suspicion of conspiracy, the mother, daughter, and son spend three years being moved from camp to camp, hearing only occasionally from the father and then only in heavily-censored letters. The story of those three years, with their “No Japs Allowed” signs and dreadful living conditions--and the aftermath, when the family returns to its vandalized home and tries to return to normalcy--is told from multiple, shifting points of view. For the novel, Otsuka drew on her grandparents’ experiences as well as on research into the 10,000 Japanese Americans interned during World War II.

Common Book Archive AY 2006-2011


Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser

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Rolling Stone asked Schlosser to write an article looking at America through fast food in 1997 after reading his article on migrants in Atlantic Monthly.He then spent nearly three years researching the fast-food industry, from the slaughterhouses and packing plants that turn out the burgers to the minimum-wage workers who cook them to the television commercials that entice children to eat them with the lure of cheap toys and colorful playgrounds.The experience enraged and appalled him.

The book is divided into two sections: "The American Way" and "Meat and Potatoes". "The American Way" the first part, takes a historical view of the fast food business by analyzing its beginnings within post-World War II America while "Meat and Potatoes" examines the specific mechanisms of the fast-food industry within a modern context as well as its influence.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

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"Nine-year-old Oskar Schell has embarked on an urgent, secret mission that will take him through the five boroughs of New York. His goal is to find the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. This seemingly impossible task will bring Oskar into contact with survivors of all sorts on an exhilarating, affecting, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey."


A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

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A  gripping story of a child's journey through hell and back. There may be as many as 300,000 child soldiers, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s, in more than fifty conflicts around the world. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. He is one of the first to tell his story in his own words.

In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now in his mid 30's, tells a riveting story of how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he'd been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. Eventually released by the army and sent to a UNICEF rehabilitation center, he struggled to regain his humanity and to reenter the world of civilians, who viewed him with fear and suspicion. This is, at last, a story of redemption and hope.


Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

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"When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to be the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil." – The Publisher


The Good Times Are Killing Me by Lynda Barry

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"Readers of alternative weeklies will be familiar with Lynda Barry's work from her long-running comic strip, Ernie Pook's Comeek. Similarly, The Good Times Are Killing Me focuses on the surprisingly complex emotional world of children. It is the story of a neighborhood going through the throes of integration and white flight as seen through the eyes of young Edna Arkins. Edna forms an unlikely friendship with Bonna Willis, a girl with a talent for "ass beating." Edna is white and Bonna is black, and from the start there are pressures from both sides against their friendship. As always, Barry is an impeccable observer of the way kids think and talk--several passages are certain to bring memories of intense schoolyard negotiations rushing back. Barry's artwork comes into play as well--each chapter is punctuated with slightly more painterly versions of her characteristically raw drawing style. By turns funny and moving, The Good Times Are Killing Me is an immensely satisfying read.”

Rhode Island College entrance

Program Co-Chairs

Brandon Hawk Photo

Dr. Brandon Hawk

Associate Professor

Janice Okoomian

Dr. Janice L. Okoomian

Assistant Professor

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