Diversity Common Reader Program Plans for Winter Semester

Peter Smedley/NW

READING AWARENESS— The diversity reader program explores books that teach and expand on perspectives. Students can sign up for a free copy at the display in the Lydia M. Olson library

Peter Smedley/NW READING AWARENESS— The diversity reader program explores books that teach and expand on perspectives. Students can sign up for a free copy at the display in the Lydia M. Olson library

Rayna Sherbinow

From Nov. 4-12 The Diversity Common Reader Program distributed free copies of the book “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Since 2013, the program has selected and distributed a nonfiction book that encourages discussion of diversity and inclusion. The timeliness of Coates’s book appealed to the program’s planning committee, who will facilitate campus-wide discussion of the book and its themes.

The book is written as a letter to Coates’s son and discusses the author’s experiences as a Black man in the United States. Despite being published in 2015, “Between the World and Me” is relevant today.

“We really wanted to pick a book that was written from a Black perspective and that responded to the Black Lives Matter movement and the widespread protests for racial justice across the country,” DCRP planning committee chair Lesley Larkin said. “We chose this book because it comments directly on those issues.”

The DCRP has planned events that connect to the book, beginning with a panel discussion on Friday, Nov. 13. Panelists were graduate and undergraduate students who taught and read “Between the World and Me” in their English classes this semester. Graduate student Joselyne Campos is a member of the DCRP planning committee, and a graduate assistant who teaches EN 111.

“It is very honest,” Campos said about the book. “It does not censor. It doesn’t accommodate its viewers. It’s very much a personal letter from a Black father to their Black son.”

COVID-19 requires the DCRP to adapt much of its programming to a virtual format. Although this hinders in-person communication and connections, it provides an opportunity for the program to expand beyond campus and experiment with ways of facilitating discussion. Usually the DCRP is a one semester program. This year books were distributed earlier. The plan is to start a winter break book club which allows students to read the book over the break and continue discussion throughout the winter semester.

Other events are planned for 2021. One activity is a screening of the film “Black Panther.” The movie features a predominantly Black cast, and Coates has co-written several Black Panther comics.

Campos is looking forward to these events, and hopes the DCRP will continue to highlight authors with diverse backgrounds such as women of color, transgender authors and disabled authors. They believe literature is a useful tool to share experiences and discuss serious issues and solutions.

“One of the most important ways to discuss issues that are uncomfortable, issues that are difficult, that are traumatic and painful, can be expressed and processed through reading,” Campos said.

If students prefer a digital copy of “Between the World and Me”, they can request a Kindle version by submitting the form linked on the DCRP’s webpage. Supplies are limited. 
The webpage also lists the distribution locations for the book and the dates of upcoming events. Free tickets to some virtual events are available at the NMU Ticketing office. For more information on the Diversity Common Reader Program, visit their Instagram page (@nmudcrp) or contact Lesley Larkin at [email protected]. To learn more about Ta-Nehisi Coates, go to https://ta-nehisicoates.com/.