This year’s summer reading assignment for incoming freshmen comes with an added bonus—the author, U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, will be on campus as a visiting artist on Oct. 16.
Each year the incoming freshmen are given a summer reading assignment, which is then used as inspiration in various school-year projects, including an exhibition in December.
This year’s assignment is Thrall by Natasha Trethewey, who is serving her second year as U.S. Poet Laureate.
“The summer reading program was designed to set the tone for the freshman first-year experience,” said Associate Professor and Director of Foundation Studies Christopher Yates. “It launches discussion and encourages students to embrace the power of ideas.”
Thrall is a follow-up volume to Trethewey’s 2007 Pulitzer-Prize-winning collection Native Guard, which looks at the racial divide between her father and her. Trethewey is the daughter of an African American woman and a Caucasian man. Through her work she explores racial attitudes and stereotypes using her personal experiences and historical events.
“We read and evaluate a lot of different texts each year with our goal being to find a book that is exciting, inspiring, and intellectually challenging,” Yates said. “Thrall is a perfect choice for our reading assignment. It addresses issues of race, identity, and the legacy of colonialism. As artists, it is essential that we understand the complex nature of personal and societal identity.”
“Having [Trethewey] speak to students is a fantastic opportunity to hear from one of the most important creative thinkers of our time,” Yates said. “Since she’s coming in October, her talk will help students gain insight for projects under development for the freshmen summer reading exhibition to be held in December.”
The exhibition will showcase work from every freshman on how they interpret Trethewey’s poetry. Work can range from paintings and sculptures to students’ own poetry.
Previous years’ selections include Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, and In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing by Matthew May.
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