Summer book clubs connect faculty, students

Tuesday, May 19, 2020
by Sarah Malone

This summer, students and faculty in the programs in American studies, Asian American studies, and Latino studies plan to use online conversations to gather and reconnect while apart, in three new summer book clubs.

“The idea for an LAO book group came from listening to students,” said Associate Professor of History Rosina Lozano. “I heard students talk about their summer plans being cancelled and about feeling very disconnected from campus. I read a lot over the summer (for research, for fun, for future classes) and I thought other students might be interested in reading along with me.”

Lozano will host discussions on The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande; The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, and The Deportation Machine: America’s Long History of Expelling Immigrants by Adam Goodman.

Each of the three book clubs takes its inspiration from a certificate program offered by the Program in American Studies. Lozano said the hardest part of creating the Latino studies group was picking books. “I had so many lists! In the end I chose three books that I’ve heard great things about and am excited to read. They are all focused around the theme of ‘undocumented.’”

She invited students to join her in reading one, two, or all three books.

Anne Cheng, professor of English and American studies, and director of the Program in American Studies, and Paul Nadal, assistant professor of English and American studies, will host the Asian American studies book club’s first discussion on Ling Ma’s novel Severance. Cheng called Ma’s dystopia “eerily prescient.” Subsequent discussions will explore Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino and Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong.

“This is not a class,” Cheng noted “We want our conversations to be open, casual, engaging, and, most of all, enjoyable!”

Judith Hamera, professor of dance, and acting director of the Program in American Studies in Spring 2020, will host the American studies book club, with discussion of The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers by Bridgett M. Davis, They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers by Sarah Scoles, and Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight Against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic by Eric Eyre.

“I’m looking forward to some rich conversations about relationships between economics and place: one theme uniting the AMS books,” Hamera said. “We may not be able to travel easily or widely over the next few months, but we can explore diverse American experiences together in these pages.”

Cheng said, “We hope the book club will serve as an oasis of community and dialogue in a time of much confusion and disconnection.”

The book clubs will meet once a month via Zoom. Student participants include certificate students in American studies, Asian American studies, and Latino studies; undeclared undergraduates; and graduate students in the humanities and social sciences.

Books will be sent to participants from Labyrinth Books, courtesy of the programs in American studies, Asian American studies, and Latino studies, and participants will have access to online editions through the University library.