Students respond to summer book club reads

Friday, Jul 24, 2020

Below, students in the three book clubs hosted by American studies, Asian American studies, and Latino studies faculty this summer talk about their first month’s reading.

Severance

The club hosted by Professor of English and American Studies Anne Cheng and Assistant Professor of English and American Studies Paul Nadal report on their discussion of Severance by Ling Ma:

In Ling Ma’s eerily prescient 2018 novel, about a contemporary global pandemic caused by a fungal infection originating in China, the protagonist, an Asian American young woman named Candice, finds herself traveling across the country with a small group of other survivors toward a new home base called the Facility, which turns out to be an old abandoned mall. The ASA Book Club on June 22, 2020 started its discussions with the question: if you found yourself in Candice’s shoes, at the end of the world, occupying a vacant mall as the home base for your future, which store would you pick and why?

With that question, a rich conversation ensued. Some of the answers were practical: “I would pick Sears because there would be mattresses”; some were idealistic: “Barnes and Noble because I would have all the books I need”; some were whimsical: “I would pick Starbucks because I am going to need the coffee!” But soon that the very idea of the mall — a site of consumerism and public gathering that is also itself already dying in our increasingly virtual and self-isolating world — led to discussions about cities versus suburbs, the public and the private, commodity culture and religion, the nature of community and isolation, the various kinds of severance between people and within families, and how the immigrant experience and Asian Americanness play into advanced global capitalism — all of which are themes in this award-winning novel.

The World According to Fannie Davis

The club hosted by Judith Hamera, professor of dance in the Lewis Center for the Arts and American studies, began the summer reading The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers, by Bridgett M. Davis.

Marissa Michaels, a rising junior, published her response to Davis's “gripping love letter” and “[p]art memoir and part social history” in a review for Midstory:

Bridgett gives us a glimpse into her “unapologetically good life” with her superforce of a mother, a woman who worked tirelessly to provide her children — and herself — with a life filled with love, support and, of course, Hermés scarves. [...]

While it might not be a “typical” Detroit narrative, Fannie’s world cannot be viewed as separate from the Detroit in which she raised her family: the Detroit that embraced redlining and low-wage jobs, and the Detroit that experienced rising racial tensions culminating in a riot in 1967.

The Distance Between Us

In a discussion on The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande, hosted by Associate Professor of History Rosina Lozano, rising sophomore Axidi Iglesias noted that the book “depicts the tough choice many immigrant families have to make: live in poverty and stay together or leave their country for El Otro Lado but be far apart.”

Iglesias said the Grande “reminds us that life is not as shiny and glittery in the U.S.” as often thought, and that “families never go back to being as they were before, even long after being reunited, and the price paid for the opportunities offered in this country is never fully paid.”

Emily Sánchez, a rising junior, said that the book “challenges us [...] to think about how physical and emotional separation impacts childhood and leads to a lasting division in family, even after unification.”