"The program we've started here at CBU, Fresh Reads, is based on the same idea. Each year, we have all of our freshmen read the same book, then participate in book clubs and discussion groups around the reading. We're partnering with the Memphis Public Library and Information Center this year and expanding to the whole community. It's a way of bringing people together, of encouraging dialogue. The book for 2014, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Ethiopian immigrant Dinaw Mengestu, is geared for high school and above. It's an immigration narrative, yes, but it's really the human narrative. The author describes feeling caught between two worlds: Africa and America, and the story deals with many of the same issues Memphis faces, including racial tension and gentrification. We're not all immigrants geographically, of course, but all of us are in transition at different points in our lives: between high school and college, between one career and another, between illness and health, between emotional states. The book is about the need we all have to find our place in the world and to connect with other people.
"Fresh Reads was started because conversation around a shared experience helps us to see how much we really have in common, even though we may seem very different on the outside. I've seen changes in our students and in myself as we've learned to hear each other's stories. There is more a sense of seeing each other as human beings."
Dr. Karen B. Golightly is an Associate Professor of English and the Director of Fresh Reads at Christian Brothers University.