An interesting idea.

We invite the Williams Community to join us this January in our campus’s first “Williams Reads” program, in which students, faculty, and staff read, consider, and discuss The Namesake, a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. Lahiri received a Williams honorary degree in 2005 and won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for her collection of short stories Interpreter of Maladies. In The Namesake, she explores issues of cultural and social identity through the experiences of a Bengali family settling in New England. Intergenerational tensions and other coming-of-age themes are richly evoked.

Comments:

1) Kudos to all involved for trying something new and different. I especially like the fact that they chose an author with an Eph connection, albeit a tenuous one.

2) It is too bad that no attempt whatsoever was made to involve alumni.

3) Was this book a good choice? I am not clear on how much of the purpose here is to touch on issues of diversity. If that is key, then, obviously, the book is a reasonable choice. If the main purpose is to generate wide interest in the Williams community for reading a book together, I would have suggested something either more topical (on the Iraq War?) or timeless.

4) Speaking as someone who has organized not-for-credit winter study classes for three years, I fear that the organizers may have dramatically overestimated the amount of student/faculty/staff interest in a project like this. The first meeting is tonight. If more than 25 people show up (other than the organizers), I would declare victory.

5) Who gets credit for the idea? Again, I (obviously) am a huge fan of bring students/faculty/alumni/staff together for non-traditional intellectual interaction.

Other community events will follow in the month of January. From Tuesday, January 16 – Friday, January 19, open community book discussions will be held daily at noon and at 4:00 p.m. Locations will be posted here at a later date.

Will more than a dozen show up to these meetings? I have my doubts. But, again, kudos entering the arena.

Groups of students, staff, and faculty are encouraged to discuss the book independently of these open community events. To encourage such group discussions, modest funds for refreshments are available; click here for more details

We look forward to participating in and learning from the many conversations catalyzed by “Williams Reads.” We hope you will join us.

Morton Owen Schapiro, President
Michael Reed, Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity
Wendy Raymond, Chair, Committee on Diversity and Community

Modest funds, eh? My rugby-playing roommates would already have had their application in by now.

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