A letter from the Chair of the Committee
The CCBC Community Book Connection Enters its Second Year
The act of reading is one of the essential pursuits of the fully educated human being. When we engage in reading, research, and reflection, we are forever enriched, becoming more powerful, perceptive people.
Reading is one of the deeply private things we do. As we sit alone and meditate and/or travel through the pages before us, we refine our own identities—our judgments, hidden vocabularies, and powers. Navigating the complex web of emotions and thoughts woven between reader and text can be one of the great illuminating and rewarding experiences of our lives.
Beyond the private sense of nourishment and pleasure that an individual may experience, reading can also be a collective or a communal endeavor. When we read, discuss, and reflect together, we get to know each other and become more sensitive to the details, not only in the work at hand, but also in the way that it is perceived by others equipped with a differently focused lens.
In the largest possible sense, reading can also be thought of as a political act. What we choose to read and interpret defines our values and our commitments to the larger world. Throughout history, important texts and authors—from the Bible to the Qur'an, from DuBois to De Beauvoir, from Marx to Martin Luther King—have galvanized ordinary people and social movements to change themselves and to change the world.
It is with these basic ideas about the value of reading that we created the Community Book Connection in 2006. We continue to believe that by engaging in a common reading throughout the year at CCBC, and exploring its many facets and themes together, we will become a more vibrant educational community.
In 2006 we launched the project with The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, a gripping war novel chronicling the lives of the young men drafted to serve in Vietnam. Reading and thinking about these soldiers' stories was a moving experience for faculty, staff, and students alike. With wars continuing to rage on in Iraq and Afghanistan, the book was a piercing reminder of the tremendous costs of war.
Beyond reading the text, the CCBC Community further explored the ideas and themes represented in The Things They Carried by participating in an impressive array of cultural and academic events that included many lectures and panels, a film series, Vietnamese cultural presentations, a dance concert, literary talks, political seminars, theatre productions, and a keynote lecture by Tim O'Brien himself. Because of the hard work of so many dedicated members of this community, we witnessed a memorable debut for the Book Connection.
New Text for 2007-2008
This past spring, the entire CCBC Community was invited to vote for the 2007-2008 text. The book chosen—by a veritable flood of support—was Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.
Come Hell or High Water presents an analysis of the way that issues of race and class affected the tragedy of Katrina. Dyson describes then decries the poverty, racism, and inequality that exacerbated this already horrific natural disaster.
The book makes the case that the residents of the Ninth Ward—like too many Americans—were struggling with the disastrous catastrophe of poverty and marginalization far before the crushing blows of Katrina ever arrived. The hurricane winds simply blew the roof off of our last cherished illusions about the American Dream. Many professional pundits and commentators talked about the “lessons of Katrina.” Have we learned them yet?
It is clear from the number of votes the book received that huge numbers of people at CCBC feel that we NEED to have a forthright and productive conversation about race and class and the way that these issues touch every aspect of American public life. Come Hell or High Water can provide an excellent catalyst for much-needed discussions.
This year, we will travel back a few short years to examine what exactly happened on August 29, 2005. We will study the images, the facts, the distortions of facts, and the subsequent analysis. Then we'll return to the present to think about what role we can play, as educators and students, to “transform the Jericho road--” in other words to transform the vast structural inequalities in our system.
Beyond these commitments, we also will enjoy learning about other aspects and angles of life in the Gulf Coast. We look forward to hearing writers from New Orleans, eating Creole and Cajun food, listening to some local music, and much more. By sharing and learning, we hope to strengthen the common bonds that unite all of us.
Chair of the Community Book Connection
August 13, 2007
Mary Jo Garcia