Osa Iyoha ’22
The selection of books for the upcoming community summer read was no easy task. Members of the Summer Reading Committee, consisting of students and faculty members, spent the past summer extensively researching books that fit this year’s theme of Health and Wellness. After collectively reading over 60 books, each committee member made a case for why their book was best suited to fit the needs of the community. After an extensive process of elimination, and several monthly meetings, the committee finally decided upon Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Body Talk by Kelly Jenson.
Between the World and Me is a letter from Ta-Nehisi Coates to his 16-year-old son. He addresses the realities of what it means to live in a black body and the obstacles that his son may face because of the color of his skin. Though concise, it is a beautifully written, intense, and passionate piece. Greta Lawler ‘23, a member of this year’s committee, said, “It inspires you to leave your comfort zone, and listen to the experiences of another person.”
Faculty member Michele Poacelli is one of the co-leaders of the committee. Poacelli said, “This book is unapologetically honest. The author’s choice to structure it as a letter creates a sense of intimacy.”
Body Talk, edited by Kelly Jenson, is a collection of 37 stories written from the perspectives of people from all walks of life about their experiences living in their bodies. Stories include Tyra Banks’s reflections on her time in the modeling industry and Rachel Lippincott’s struggle with scoliosis. “The format of short stories makes it really accessible,” said Lawler. Readers can digest the stories in small chunks. The wide range of perspectives enables nearly everyone to connect with a variety of stories while at the same time offering exposure to the unfamiliar.
The books selected this year deviate from the fictional trend seen in the recent past. Library Director Alexandra Patterson is the second co-leader of the Summer Reading Committee. Patterson said, “I really appreciate that both books offer the authors the chance to tell their own story. Over the past few years we have focused on fiction books, so it is nice to focus on nonfiction this year.”
This year, the exhaustive process of selecting the community read produced two gems. Patterson said, “I hope the community can learn from both books by thinking critically about the ways in which our position in the world affects our experiences, whether that has to do with gender, body type, race, or disability.” Both books make readers reflect on experiences not often shared and both will encourage intelligent discussion about Health and Wellness.