Project Wake BACKUP

Information on this site is for the class of 2020. Information for the class of 2021 will be available May 2017.

Wake Forest has a long tradition of engaging in a summer academic project, and including in Orientation time for students to engage with a faculty or staff member over an issue of intellectual and social importance. This year, Project Wake will explore issues of difference and diversity. Although we are often drawn to similarity, the ability to understand and appreciate different perspectives, different experiences, and different ways of being is so important to a healthy and vibrant Wake Forest community, to your education and development, and to your future success in a world where you will have to collaborate and problem-solve with people very different from yourself.

38 faculty and staff members have enthusiastically volunteered to explore issues of difference and building a healthy diverse community in the context of this “First Read” with new students. Please read the following descriptions of the book discussion groups to see which ones interest you. You will note that most of the discussion groups will meet on Sunday afternoon of Orientation (August 27, 1:30-3 pm), although some will meet in the early weeks of the semester. Be sure to block the time on your calendar for time at which you sign up.

Participation will introduce to you the vibrant intellectual discussion we value at Wake Forest and also simply serve as an opportunity to get to know a faculty or staff member in a small setting. You might even find out about a professor or campus program that you’ll want to get to know further, after Orientation.

97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, by Jane Ziegelman

Discussion Leader: Rosalind Tedford, ZSR Library

I am currently the Director for Research and Instruction at the ZSR Library at WFU, and I have a BA (English and Psychology) and a MA (English) from Wake. I always say that if I won the lottery I’d go to cooking school – not to own a restaurant, but to be able to cook great meals for my family and friends. I have always loved to cook and I love books about food, so that’s why I’m excited to talk about 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement with students.

97 Orchard St. is the address of the New York Tenement Museum in New York City, and it’s the address that gave the book its name. This book looks at the food traditions and culture of five immigrant populations that came to NYC in the late 19th and early part of the 20th Centuries. The cultures are German, Italian, Irish, and Jewish (both Orthodox and Reform) from Russia and Germany. The book looks at why they came to the United States, how they got here, and what food meant to them in their home cultures and in their new home in America. When I first read it I came away with newly opened eyes about historical events (like the Irish potato famine) and their impact on their home countries and the people who fled to find a new life in America. I also gained a newfound respect for the impact these cultures had on our country and especially on our own food cultures. With immigration being such a hot-button issue in this country, I hope this book will give us all the time and space to appreciate why people come to our country and how they impact us in innumerable ways once they are here. Oh, and I can’t wait to make some of the foods from the book for us all to try!!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie

Discussion Leader: Alan Brown, Education

This group discussion will explore the importance of celebrating differences by examining how disability is portrayed in one of the most popular–and one of the most commonly censored–young adult novels: Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. This book is a fictional yet somewhat autobiographical account of protagonist Arnold Spirit, Jr., a young Spokane Indian who lives on a reservation but chooses to attend a nearby private school. Arnold was born with hydrocephalus, a condition that resulted in excess cerebrospinal fluid on his skull. In the book, we follow Arnold as he strives to overcome a childhood of physical and emotional trauma while nevertheless maintaining a positive, and often humorous, outlook on life, finding hope when everything around him seems hopeless.

I am an assistant professor in the Department of Education whose teaching and scholarly work focuses on English and literacy education. One of the courses I teach at Wake Forest is EDU 231: Adolescent Literature, which will be offered again during the spring 2017 semester. My interest in this book stems from my work connecting sports and young adult literature (Arnold, the book’s protagonist, is a basketball player) but also based on an article I co-authored with former Wake Forest undergraduate Siobhan McIntyre called “Dare to be Different: Celebrating Difference and Redefining Disability in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” in which we explored various ways of viewing normalcy and disability through young adult literature.

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

Discussion leader: Barbara Lentz, Wake Forest School of Law

51P1c42DyLL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Ron Chernow’s Hamilton is a doorstop of book, weighing in at just over 2 lbsin the paperback. You should read it anyway. The story of Hamilton’s transformation from orphaned outsider to visionary political and economic leader in the United States is a mix of incredible success and heartbreaking failure. How was it that this immigrant became the insider? How did he learn (or fail) to respectfully engage with opposing viewpoints? If he had been better at compromise and appreciating differences, would he have been President? Would you want Alexander as your first year roommate?

As a public policy and economics major, lawyer and law professor, I have studied much of Hamilton’s work – including the Federalist essays that are still a leading source for interpreting our Constitution. I teach nonprofit law, contracts, art law, and other courses at the law school, teach a nonprofit & social enterprise college seminar, and am starting my fifth year as a Faculty Fellow. Like Hamilton, I am planning to start a bank (of sorts) this year as a community development project. Our group will be meeting on Sunday, August 27 at Reynolda House Museum of American Art, my favorite place at Wake Forest.

All Who Go Do Not Return, by Shulem Deen

Discussion Leader: Susan Rupp, Associate Professor, History

A 2015 National Jewish Book Award winner, Shulem Deen’s memoir describes life in the insular Hasidic community, his break with this community, and the challenges of navigating life in modern, secular society. Deen’s work examines issues of identity and faith in contemporary America.

Susan Rupp is a Russianist who has taught in Wake Forest’s history department for close to twenty-five years.


The Association of Small Bombs, by Karan Mahajan

Discussion Leader: Amy Lather, Assistant Professor, Department of Classical Languages

Fiona Maazel of The New York Times characterized this book as, “…smart, devastating, unpredictable, and enviably adept in its handling of tragedy and its fallout.” The Association of Small Bombs explores the aftermath of a terrorist attack in Delhi and its reverberating effect on the families of the victims. This novel, in depicting an event that likely would receive less media attention than its counterpart in a Western city, thus compels Western readers to consider the psychological and physical devastation of terrorism in a non-Western country.

Although my professional research focuses on archaic and classical Greek literature, I maintain a lively interest in contemporary novels. I chose this book because I have both a personal and an academic interest in the way that literary forms engage with contemporary politics and events, and with instances of trauma in particular (hence a lot of my research is focused on Greek tragedy!).


The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama

Discussion Leader: Scott Baker, Education

Published before Obama was elected President, The Audacity of Hope offers ideas about how to understand and transcend difference.

I am an historian of education, and teach courses on educational policy and social justice.



Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Discussion Leaders: Rian Bowie, English & Christina Soriano, Theatre & Dance

Ta-Nehisi Coates, the national correspondent for The Atlantic who spoke at Wake Forest in 2015, wrote Between the World and Me as a memoir addressed in the form of a letter to his son. It tells the story of Coates’ life, and traces the evolution of his thoughts on race, and how he eventually comes to understand that race is a fabrication resulting from American white exceptionalism. This #1 New York Times Bestseller was a 2015 National Book Award Winner, NAACP Image Award Winner, and Pulitzer Prize Finalist.

Christina Soriano is an associate professor of dance and director of the dance program at Wake Forest. She teaches courses in improvisation, dance composition, modern dance technique and a course called “Movement and the Molecular” with her chemistry colleague, Rebecca Alexander. With English professor Rian Bowie, Christina has investigated the ways that poetry and dance share to inform each other’s content and style. Christina’s research looks at the way improvisational dance can help the mobility and balance of people living with neurodegenerative diseases.

Boy, Snow, Bird: A Novel, by Helen Oyeyemi

Discussion Leader: Dr. Erica Still, English

An adaptation of the classic Snow White story set in 1950s Massachusetts, Oyeyemi’s novel raises questions about identity, race, vanity, and perception. As The Los Angeles Times puts it, “By transforming ‘Snow White’ into a tale that hinges on race and cultural ideas about beauty — the danger of mirrors indeed — Oyeyemi finds a new, raw power in the classic. In her hands, the story is about secrets and lies, mothers and daughters, lost sisters and the impossibility of seeing oneself or being seen in a brutally racist world… [Oyeyemi] elegantly and inventively turns a classic fairy tale inside out.” Students interested in the ways in which outside pressures shape our understanding–of ourselves, our families, and our society–will find a chance to explore these pressing issues through this novel.

As a professor in the English Department, I spend most of my time reading, writing, and talking about the ways that literature helps us think about important social (and personal) issues. In particular, I focus on African American literature and representations of race, masculinity, and family. I am eager to discuss Boy, Snow, Bird because it provides a chance to talk about how we negotiate social, familial, and personal expectations as we attempt to forge a satisfying sense of identity.

The Crunk Feminist Collection, Brittney Cooper, Susanna Morris, Robin Boylorn

Discussion leaders: Melissa Harris-Perry, Professor of Politics and Executive Direct of the Pro Humanitate Institute & TKTK

The three African American women professors of the Crunk Feminist Collective first launched their award-winning blog to address the critical issues of their scholarship within a more relevant, public context. This edited volume collects their most poignant, timely observations of the operation of race, gender, material inequality, and the power of misrecognition within American politics and popular culture. One of the authors, Professor Brittney Cooper, will be visiting Wake Forest University in Spring 2018 to deliver the annual Anna Julia Cooper lecture. This text is a fantastic way to learn about her scholarship and intellectual and personal commitments.

Melissa Harris-Perry is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair in politics and international studies. She is also Executive Director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and Director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center. Her research, teaching, public writings, and advocacy address the intersections of race, gender, and American politics.

Cultural Misunderstandings: The French-American Experience, by Raymonde Carroll

Discussion Leader: Véronique McNelly, Romance Languages

Focusing on the French-American experience, the cultural anthropologist Raymonde Carroll considers how culturally-specific habits of mind and expectations that inform our perceptions of other cultures frequently lead to misunderstandings. In her often entertaining cultural analyses she discusses differences in the ways in which French and Americans approach matters such as friendship, marriage, child-rearing, and privacy in the home; she also discusses norms governing conversation, phone etiquette, and information gathering.

She begins with her own experiences as a French woman living in the US with her American husband; she then extends her analysis to include students and expatriates living in France and the US. Carroll teaches us to examine our own practices and presuppositions so that we can better describe and interpret other cultures. In that spirit, participants in the group will be asked to reflect on their own encounters with different cultures.

I teach French in the Department of Romance Languages, with a special interest in African and Caribbean literatures.

Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with his Mother, by Sonia Nazario

Discussion Leader: Mark Scholl, Associate Professor, Counseling

Enrique’s Journey describes the harrowing experiences of a Honduran boy looking for his mother. The book which was published in 2010, is based on a Los Angeles Time newspaper series that won two Pulitzer Prizes. Enrique’s mother left Honduras to move to the United States in order to provide for her starving family. He faces many dangers in his efforts to be reunited with her. The book celebrates Enrique’s courage, intelligence, perseverance, and resourcefulness. Perhaps most importantly, this true story is a humanistic portrayal of the circumstances surrounding a family’s immigration to the United States in search of a better way of life.

I have worked as a full-time Counselor Educator for the past 18 years. Throughout that period I have held, and continue to hold, a variety of positions of responsibility in the Association for College Counseling and the Association for Humanistic Counseling. My current research and counseling activities focus on supporting the re-entry efforts of community ex-offenders.

Everything that Rises Must Converge: Stories (1965), by Flannery O’Connor

Discussion Leader: Melissa Jenkins, English

Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) was a Southern woman writer whose life and writings exemplified difference. She kept peacocks as pets. She suffered from lupus, a disease that deformed her body and left her, at times, in great pain. She remained unmarried. She was a devout Catholic living in a heavily Protestant Southern community. She also wrote provocative short stories about race, gender, and religion during some of the most volatile moments in American history. Students in this discussion group will read selected stories from Everything that Rises Must Converge, O’Connor’s second short story collection, published posthumously in 1965. The stories will interest students who find themselves grappling with the many categories of difference that intersected with O’Connor’s life and writing: religious, regional, racial, medical, and gendered. Our discussion will center on four stories in the collection: “Everything that Rises Must Converge,” “Greenleaf,” “The Lame Shall Enter First,” and “Judgment Day.”

I am an associate professor of English and core faculty in the department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I graduated from Wake Forest in 2001 and completed my PhD in English in 2007. My areas of research interest include the history of the novel, nineteenth-century British Literature and Culture, regional American literature, gender studies, and transatlantic race studies.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel

Discussion leader: Angela Mazaris, Director of the LGBTQ Center


Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, written by MacArthur grant awardee Alison Bechdel, is a “tragicomic memoir” written in graphic novel form. The story, which follows Bechdel’s coming of age as a lesbian and her grappling with her closeted queer father’s suicide, is funny, smart, and asks important questions about identity, family, and what it means to belong. I am excited about discussing this book with students who are in the midst of a huge transition of their own, and thinking about what it means to look back on our families/homes/histories from the distance of college.

I serve as the Program Coordinator for the LGBTQ Center, where I coordinate programs and initiatives that support our mission of providing education, advocacy, and support to the campus community around gender and sexuality. I welcome all students who identify as LGBTQ+, allies, and those seeking to build community as we dive into this fantastic graphic novel!

Ghetto, The Invention of a Place, The History of an Idea, by Mitchell Duneier

Discussion Leader: Alessandra Von Burg, Communication & Lauren Formica, Business School and GPS

The book traces the history of what we now call ghetto to its origin in Venice in 1516, all the way to Chicago, Harlem, and modern understandings of a ghetto as a place and a concept. The book addresses important questions about race, poverty, and place, connecting Jewish history in Italy and Europe to the experience of African Americans in the United States. Duneier’s work relates to issues on “non-placeness,” connecting the understanding of the ghetto to other people who may be isolated, abandoned, “out of place” (for ex, migrants, refugees, or citizens with no/little rights).

Alessandra Von Burg: I am Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Chair of Eastern Asian Languages and Cultures. I am also a Faculty Fellow is South Hall, so look for me there every Friday for fruit and fun. For the last ten summers, I have been Curriculum Director for the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows (BFTF) Summer Institute, a Department of State-funded program that brings European and American students to campus for a month. I also direct the Where Are You From? Project. I am a member of the Every Campus a Refuge team here at Wake, working with other faculty, students, and staff to welcome refugees. I have spent time with migrants and refugees across Europe, listening to stories of mobility and learning about immigration issues for my book Citizenship Deserts (see a map here).

Lauren Formica: I am a current student in the Master of Science Business Analytics program at Wake Forest. I graduated from Wake Forest in 2016 after majoring in Economics with a double minor in international studies and environmental studies. Prior to my time as a graduate student, I was a Global Programs Coordinator in the Global Programs & Studies Office here at Wake.

Good Enough Now: How Doing the Best We Can With What We Have is Better Than Nothing, by Jessica Pettitt

Discussion Leader: Brian Calhoun, Education

I had the opportunity to hear Jessica Pettitt’s keynote speech at the American Counseling Association San Francisco Conference in March 2017. I was thrilled to learn that this year’s incoming class was going to focus their book club discussions around exploring differences and embracing diversity. Jessica Pettitt brings fifteen years of experience of working to build more inclusive communities on campus. She is well versed in helping people communicate with each other on difficult subjects. The text will also address the topics of being true to yourself, and building on your own strengths. We all have some form of self-doubt, and this book is a practical guide on how eliminate self-limiting beliefs. Our discussion will focus on how you are good enough now, and that you already have the tools to begin to shift the paradigm. We will delve further into our guiding principle of Pro Humanitate, and what it means to serve others. I look forward to seeing you in August.

I am an instructor of the College-to-Career series of courses, offered by the Department of Education (EDU). I am highly invested in helping students examine and explore the guiding principle of our University, Pro Humanitate. As members of the Wake Forest University community, we are committed as citizens of the world to see humankind grow and flourish.

Half Earth-Earth, Our Planet’s Fight for Life, by Edward O. Wilson

Discussion Leader: Justin Catanoso, Journalism professor, freelance journalist specializing in climate-change reporting

Biologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author E.O. Wilson, 87, is generally considered one of the world’s foremost conservationists. In Half-Earth, he explains in clear, accessible and startling prose the perilous condition of our planet largely as a result of the world’s most invasive species — humans. Of the 10 million species on the planet, only 2 million have been identified and described. Because of climate change and habitat destruction, we are losing countless species to extinction before we know their value to their ecosystems, and thus to us. In a radical, but plausible prescription to slow down the rate of extinctions and global warming, Wilson proposes setting aside half of the earth’s lands and seas for nature, giving species large and small, the time and space needed to recover, while leaving plenty of space of humans to live and prosper.

Justin Catanoso has been newspaper reporter and editor for more than 30 years, and has been teaching courses in reporting and editing at Wake Forest since 1993. He joined the faculty full-time in 2011 as director of the journalism program, a position he held for five years. As professor of journalism, Catanoso still teaches courses in reporting and editing and created the first study-abroad courses in journalism (Rome and Peru). He remains a working journalist, writing primarily for, one of the leading environmental news organizations online.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Discussion Leader: Kathy Shields, ZSR Library

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel that takes place in a “future” Cambridge, Massachusetts. The theocratic government now ruling Gilead (formerly the United States) strictly controls women’s rights and bodies, and has placed people into specific castes based on gender, age, ethnicity, marital status, sexual identity, and childbearing ability. The novel is told from the first person by Offred, who is a Handmaid, a fertile woman forced to bear children for the wives of the social elite (who are infertile). In addition to the book, The Handmaid’s Tale is also being made into a mini-series on Hulu that will be available in April.

I first read this story in college, and it has stuck with me ever since. While the subject matter certainly relates to current events, Atwood’s story also draws on historical texts and events that give it an additional sense of both validity and reality. In their goal to achieve a perfect society, the totalitarian government eliminates or subjugates whole groups of people who are considered less valuable.

As the History and Social Science Librarian at ZSR, I am interested in the ways Atwood uses history to craft her story. I am also interested in how Offred’s story is viewed near the end of the novel as part of the archival record and how this perspective can affect the way we look at historical and current events.

Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly

Discussion Leader: Rebecca Alexander, Chemistry

Margo Lee Shetterly’s New York Times #1 best-selling book Hidden Figures may need no introduction. Perhaps many of you have already seen the movie version of this incredible story, which follows a group of mathematically gifted African-American women working at NASA. The book will provide a launching pad (pun intended) for our conversation about diversity of approach in science, gender and racial discrimination, and how the women of Hidden Figures followed in a long tradition of female “computers” that traces back to the 1890s.

I am a professor in the Chemistry department and director of Wake Downtown, our new site for teaching and research in the urban heart of Winston-Salem. I’m a biochemist who studies the enzymes of protein biosynthesis. I have taught a first year seminar on the history of women in science and can’t wait for you to read this great book!

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance

Discussion Leader: Thomas Brister, Politics and International Affairs

J.D. Vance, a former marine and a Yale Law School graduate, introduces us in this compelling memoir to a culture in crisis – that of poor, white Americans. He focuses in particular on Americans of Scots-Irish descent and cultural legacies both good and bad that have shaped the way that many in this group live today. From the book jacket: “a deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.”

I am an Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs and teach courses on Globalization and Nationalism, Terrorism and Asymmetric Conflict, and Intelligence. I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with family roots in the Scots-Irish culture that Vance describes in this memoir, and find that the book serves as a great springboard for discussing the themes of this year’s Project Wake.

How to be Danish: A Journey to the Cultural Heart of Denmark, by Patrick Kingsley

Discussion Leader: Jessica Francis, Global Programs and Studies

For Global AWAKEning Students ONLY

The Chicago Tribune describes the books as “Part reportage, part travelogue…a delightful guide.” This is a book about Denmark written by an Englishman that presents a variety of aspects of Danish culture and society in an accessible and enjoyable way. I am excited to discuss this book with you as you prepare for your semester abroad. I hope that this book (and our discussion) sets the tone for your year abroad and equips and encourages you for your cultural exploration.

I am the Associate Director of Global Abroad and help students study abroad for short term, summer, semester or year. I work closely with our Wake Forest program and am part of the Global AWAKEning team. As an international educator I find myself drawn to books that explore the culture and identity of the locations I have traveled to and hope to explore.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

Discussion Leader: Megan Rudock, Chemistry

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a thoughtfully written nonfiction about cancer, racism, scientific ethics and medicine in America. This is the story of a poor black female tobacco farmer whose cells were taken without her knowledge and whose cells have become one of the most important tools in biomedical science research. We will explore the history of scientific and medical ethics as well as a variety of other moral and ethical questions associated the production, buying and selling of Henrietta Lacks cells by the billions, while her family remains unable to afford health insurance.

I am a teaching faculty in the Chemistry department. I have always been intrigued by gender and racial disparities in science, medicine and research. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks provides an eye opening discussion of gender, race and ethical issues in America prior to federal regulations protecting human research subjects.

Make Your Home Among Strangers, by Jennine Capo Crucet

Discussion Leader: Celina Alexander, Intercultural Center

Make Your Home Among Strangers, a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice written by Jennine Capo Crucet, is a novel that focuses on the story of Lizet, a first-generation college student and the daughter of Cuban immigrants. This coming of age story follows Lizet’s decision to leave Miami and head to an ultra-elite college against her family’s wishes and amidst turmoil. Urgent and mordantly funny, Make Your Home Among Strangers tells the moving story of a young woman torn between generational, cultural, and political forces; it’s the new story of what it means to be American today. I am excited about discussing this book with students who are questioning What is a family? and How do we define home? while away at college.

I serve as the assistant director of Wake Forest’s Intercultural Center, and advise student organizations such as The Organization of Latin American Students. As a first generation, Latinx college graduate, I’m looking forward to connecting with students that identify as first generation, Latinx, or both – and to those who want to learn more about the experiences of first-generation Latino students!

An Octoroon, by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Discussion Leader: J.K. Curry, Theatre & Dance

In 1859, Dion Boucicault scored a big hit writing, staging, and appearing in a melodrama called The Octoroon, about a plantation on the brink of financial ruin and a beautiful young heroine who is one-eighth black and therefore doomed within the world of the play. The play so skillfully exploited contemporary sentiments that some reviewers and early audiences saw the melodrama as supporting an abolitionist agenda, while others thought it was decidedly sympathetic to Southern slave holders. While the audience was encouraged to give serious consideration to the plight of the title character, the other slaves were portrayed in the tradition of black face minstrelsy.

In 2014 McArthur “genius” award winner Branden Jacobs-Jenkins adapted Boucicault’s melodrama into a new Obie award winning play called An Octoroon. Jacobs-Jenkins’ play, which included characters in white face, black face, and red face, asks an audience to look at old racial stereotypes and consider how they continue to reverberate down to the present. By playfully interrogating and reworking his source material, Jacobs-Jenkins allows audiences/readers to encounter Boucicault’s play in a fresh and thought provoking way.

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance. I enjoy reading and discussing all kinds of dramatic literature, with a particular fondness for both contemporary American drama and 19th century melodrama.

On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill (focus on Chapters 2 and 3)

Discussion Leader: Clark Thompson, Philosophy

In chapters 2 and 3 of On Liberty (1859), John Stuart Mill discusses the value of a diversity of opinions and argues that societies should allow for a diversity of lifestyles.

My interests are in the history of philosophy, legal philosophy, and the philosophy of religion.



Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell

Discussion Leader: Al Rives, Chemistry

Al Rives: I am a teaching faculty member in the Chemistry department. Each year I see students come into the Chemistry Dept thinking they need to be at the top of their class to get where they want to go. But it’s more complicated that that. Frankly, 1st year college students rarely have enough information or understanding to know where they want to go. From my point-of-view students need to develop their talents and be willing to take advantage of opportunities to develop their ambitions. Outliers describes some commonalities of the paths a very diverse group of very high-achievers wound up taking on their ways to fame and/or fortune. To the extent that today’s students can recognize and take advantage of their diverse backgrounds, they can make amazing accomplishments. They can be more productive in their studies and in the development and the pursuit of their ambitions. That’s bound to be a good thing.

Grant Abrahamson: I am a rising sophomore from Minnesota, intending to follow the Pre-Dental track and majoring in Chemistry. I am looking forward to helping lead this book discussion. I hope Outliers will provide some insight to how the ultra-successful reached their full potential, and introduce the new freshman to a mindset that will allow them to achieve any goals they set here at Wake.

Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Discussion Leader: Jessica Richard, Associate Professor and Chair of English

When we first meet someone new (as you will do innumerable times at Wake Forest), what kind of snap judgments do we make? How should we weigh behavior, appearance, markers of wealth and status, and family background when we try to figure out if a new acquaintance is a potential friend, romantic partner, or even just a good person? Do you believe that first impressions are trustworthy, or to be doubted? We will examine Jane Austen’s most famous novel not merely as a depiction of the social values of early nineteenth-century England but as a guide to the challenging practice of “exploring diversity, embracing difference” in twenty-first-century America.

I am a scholar of British fiction of the eighteenth century, an era that might seem far removed from our own, but in fact saw the beginnings of cultural changes that are still being felt in our own time, from the invention of capitalism, democracy, feminism, and the novel, to the first efforts to abolish slavery. I have been reading Jane Austen’s novels since my teens not for their romance plots, but for their explorations of life in community.

Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

Discussion Leader: James Raper, Director of the University Counseling Center

Introverts can get a bad rap in our society. They can be classified only as “shy,” and because of the different ways their strengths manifest, can be overlooked. Introverts themselves can also miss opportunities to build on their strengths, thinking they need to behave, think, and speak more like extroverts. Coming into college is a perfect time to continue our exploration of ourselves and how we interact with those around us. Quiet, by Susan Cain, is an excellent book that challenges many misconceptions about introverts. Cain uses real life examples from everyday people, and supports her message with science. Our group discussion of this book will allow us to explore where each of us lies on the Introversion-Extroversion continuum, further identify and process our own strengths and preferences, and learn how to value our own and others’ differences. This discussion should be a great spring-board into your first semester.

I (an introvert!) am the Director of the University Counseling Center, and spend most of my time at WFU helping students understand their relationship with themselves and those around them.

She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Discussion Leader: Hu Womack, ZSR Library

In She’s Not There, author Jennifer Finney Boylan uses her skill as a writer to tell her deeply personal and moving story. Her personal journey is filled with wonderful stories of love and friendship, and the complexity of life. Boylan offers the reader great insight into the importance of personal acceptance.

Hu Womack is an Instruction and Outreach Librarian in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 1990 with a BA in English and Studio Art. Hu received his MBA from the Babcock School at Wake Forest in 2000 and completed his MLIS degree from UNC-Greensboro in 2008.


Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, by Timothy Egan

Discussion Leaders: Meghan Webb & Carrie Johnston ZSR Library

Edward Curtis has been described as “the Annie Liebowitz of his time” and “Indiana Jones with a camera”. As a celebrated photographer in the early twentieth century, Curtis dedicated his life to capturing and preserving Native American culture using photographic film – a pursuit that brought about profound personal changes to Curtis and succeeded in creating a stunning cultural achievement – The North American Indian. Timothy Egan’s narrative uncovers the remarkable stories behind Curtis’ iconic photographs and his struggles to document the stories and rituals of more than eighty North American native tribes. Edward Curtis used his artistic talents to create a visual archive of Native American life, which would not have existed without his perseverance and

Meghan Webb is an Instruction and Outreach Librarian at the ZSR Library. In addition to teaching LIB 100: Accessing Information in the 21st Century, Meghan develops and leads library programs related to student engagement and information literacy instruction.

Carrie Johnston is the Digital Humanities Research Designer in the ZSR Library. She assists faculty and students working on digitally-inflected scholarly projects. Her own research focuses on the intersections of technology, innovation, and notions of national identity and belonging in the American West.

Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult

Discussion Leader: Pat Lord, Biology

At first I was skeptical that Picoult could tell an authentic story as a white woman about privilege, power, and race. Even Picoult herself struggled with her “right” to tell the story about Ruth Jefferson, an African American labor and delivery nurse, who is not allowed to care for a newborn baby by his white parents. The next day, when the baby experiences cardiac arrest, Ruth must consider whether to obey orders not to touch the baby or administer CPR. The baby dies and Ruth is charged with a serious crime. Picoult does an amazing job of telling this complicated story that affects not only Ruth and the baby’s parents but extended family, friends, medical and legal professionals. There are no easy answers in this story, but there is hope. As we struggle with how to discuss differences and embrace diversity, I look forward to hearing from you about what you think of this story. Don’t forget to read Picoult’s notes at the end of the book!

As a teaching faculty member in the Department of Biology, I teach Genetics and Molecular Biology as well as Virology. Even though I have taught these classes several times, no one semester is exactly like a previous one because of all I keep learning. I always hope my students develop a love of lifelong learning just like I have. I also enjoy helping my students develop a sense of community as well as broaden our definition of what we consider “our community.” I believe our lives are enriched as we broaden our community.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman

Discussion Leader: Sharon Woodard, Health and Exercise Science

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down tells the story of Lia, a young Hmong girl suffering from epilepsy, who is caught in the cultural chasm between her refugee family and her American doctors. Lia’s parents and her doctors both wanted what was best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them led to tragedy. Because it reveals the dangers of a lack of cultural understanding, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is frequently used to teach cultural competence to health care practitioners. It has been required reading for first-year medical students at a number of institutions.

Sharon Woodard is a faculty member in the Department of Health and Exercise Science. She graduated from Central Michigan University with a BS in Health Fitness & Health Promotion. Sharon received her MS from Wake Forest in Exercise Science. After working in the areas of wellness, clinical services, and research, she has been teaching the Lifestyle & Health course at Wake Forest for the past 20 years.

Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

Discussion Leaders: Claudia Kairoff, English & Michele Gillespie, Dean of the College and Professor of History

Colson Whitehead’s best-selling The Underground Railroad (2016) won the National Book Award. The novel follows Cora, who escapes the Georgia plantation on which she is enslaved and endures a terrifying journey to freedom along the system of trails, tunnels, and safe houses known as the underground railroad. This powerful novel helps us understand what people sacrificed both to earn freedom and assist others to achieve freedom during the ugliest chapter of our country’s history.

Michele Gillespie: I am a social and cultural U.S. historian who is deeply interested in the history of slavery and its legacies. I believe literature can expose truths about who we are as a society and who we have been in ways that formal history cannot always accomplish. Underground Railroad is an amazing book that invites a kind of imagining that exposes our presumptions as well as our ignorance about slavery and freedom, and slavery’s long reach into the present and probably the future.

Claudia Kairoff: I am a professor of eighteenth-century British literature, but growing up in Baltimore with family roots in Southern Maryland, I have long been haunted by America’s history of slavery. The Underground Railroad is a compelling novel about enslavement and escape that leads us along the underground railroad as both a metaphor and a real network along which people traveled to freedom. Although the underground railroad route is now preserved as a system of national park sites, its story comes to life in searing form in Colson Whitehead’s novel.

When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon

Discussion Leader: Amanda Foster, ZSR Library

Please note this novel will be released on May 30, 2017

This young adult romantic-comedy follows two teenagers, Dimple and Rishi, whose parents “suggest” an arranged marriage between them. Dimple is college and career focused, with little interest in her mother’s quest to find her the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Rishi, described as a “hopeless romantic,” believes in the importance of tradition and wants an arranged marriage. As Dimple and Rishi set off to attend the same summer program for web-development, where they will meet for the first time, they will begin a journey of self-discovery away from their parents. Described as “laugh-out-loud” funny, as well as “emotional,” “happy,” and “heartwarming,” this novel will also explore the themes of transition to college/adulthood, self-discovery, feminism, and the experiences of second/third+ generation Indian-American immigrants.

I am an Assistant Teaching Librarian at the Z. Smith Reynolds Library, where I teach classes on information literacy. I’m a young adult/new adult fiction fanatic. This book sounds both delightful and intriguing, so I’m very much looking forward to reading this book along with new Wake Forest students!

When Women Were Birds, by Terry Tempest Williams

Discussion Leader: Laura Denlinger, Writing Program

From Amazon: “I am leaving you all my journals, but you must promise me you won’t look at them until after I’m gone.” This is what Terry Tempest Williams’s mother, the matriarch of a large Mormon clan in northern Utah, told her a week before she died. It was a shock to Williams to discover that her mother had kept journals. But not as much of a shock as it was to discover that the three shelves of journals were all blank. In fifty-four short chapters, Williams recounts memories of her mother, ponders her own faith, and contemplates the notion of absence and presence art and in our world. When Women Were Birds is a carefully crafted kaleidoscope that keeps turning around the question: What does it mean to have a voice?

I am the administrative assistant in both the Writing Center and the Writing Program. I work closely with the operation of our Writing Center as well as our writing courses and interdisciplinary writing minor. I’m looking forward to talking with students about a book that’s been on my to-read list for quite some time.

Wolf Totem, by Jiang Rong

Discussion Leader: Nelson Brunsting, Center for Global Programs and Studies

What happens when people from one culture impose their laws, government, and economy on people of another culture in their homeland? What happens when modern technology and economic methods are introduced to a nomadic farming and shepherding community? What happens to a grassland when the natural balance between land, man, and animals (in this instance, the wolf) is shattered. These are the central ideas explored in Wolf Totem, the semi-autobiographical tale of a Beijing university student sent to the grasslands of Inner Mongolia to learn the life of a Mongolian peasant during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, who raises a wolf cub of his own. “Part period epic, part fable for modern days, Wolf Totem is a stirring social commentary on the dangers of over-accelerated economic growth, and a heady immersion into the heart of Chinese and Mongolian Culture.”

I am the Director of Global Research and Assessment, and my research and teaching focuses on the cultural and socio-emotional adjustment of international students in US universities. I have collaborated closely with faculty, administrators, and students across the university on the development of Global Connections, a yearlong academic program designed to enhance international students’ communication skills and connect them with campus leaders and student organizations so that they can better connect, engage, and lead during their time at Wake Forest University. I am excited to explore the themes of Wolf Totem with domestic and international students alike.

The Wretched of the Earth, by Frantz Fanon

Discussion Leader: Omaar Hena, English

This group will meet Sunday, September 3 from 1:30 – 3:00 PM

“Race and Violence”: this is the topic of our reading group. What are the effects of political and racial domination upon the minds and lives of the oppressor and the oppressed? How are we to understand instances of violence stemming from slavery, colonialism, and neocolonialism? And what roles can students, academics, and intellectuals play in resisting injustice and promoting equality? To address these questions, this group will look to The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon (1925-61). Fanon was an Afro-Caribbean writer, philosopher, and psychiatrist whose writings have been enormously influential in movements for racial equality and social justice around the world, up to and including Black Lives Matter. Through our conversation, we will examine the arguments Fanon makes about the psychological, bodily, and political effects of racial domination and violence. We will also reflect upon the relevance of his thinking as people continue to return to his writing to understand the intersection of race and violence in our contemporary moment.

I graduated from Wake Forest in 1999 and am now an associate professor in the Department of English. I teach courses on postcolonial literature, modern and contemporary poetry, and cultural globalization.