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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.

Events

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 OBOM@ric.edu. Include the title, author, and any other pertinent details.

Related Events

Rhode Island College entrance

Program Co-Chairs

Brandon Hawk Photo

Dr. Brandon Hawk

Associate Professor

Janice Okoomian

Dr. Janice L. Okoomian

Assistant Professor