Why a Common Reading?
Your transition to the Knox community will follow many paths. As a community of scholars, we value reading as one pathway. Conversation is also key. The Summer Common Reading is our first opportunity to do both of these things. All entering students are expected to read Make Your Home Among Strangers prior to arriving on campus. As part of orientation, students, faculty, and staff will join in conversations about them. One reason for a summer reading is that it is something we can do in common no matter where we might be on the globe right now. A common reading experience gives us shared knowledge and shared vocabulary for the many conversations that will follow in and out of the classroom at Knox.
Reading as Active Learning
Another important reason for a common reading experience is the value we place on active and engaged learning. We know that every reader brings a different perspective to the act of reading. Your professors bring their perspectives to reading course materials, and you may be eager to hear their opinions and perspectives. College-level learning, however, requires that you develop confidence in your perspectives, that you understand them fully and that you develop skills in explaining them to others. The summer common reading is selected to invite your engagement with the characters and themes in the novel. What larger themes do you recognize? Where do you find a connection to the characters? What do they mean to you?
Why This Reading?
The Summer Common Reading, chosen by a committee of First-Year Preceptorial faculty, is the novel Make Your Home Among Strangers, by Jennine Capo’ Crucet. The book tells the story of a Cuban-American family through the experiences of the narrator Lizet, who finds challenges both at college and upon returning home for the holidays. As you will see, the book deals with themes that will likely be familiar to you, including the search for a sense of belonging; finding one’s way in new or altered surroundings; and how to engage with and learn from people who are different from us in some way.
First, read the novel actively. What do we mean by that? You will work on active reading a great deal at Knox, but here are some tips to get you started:
- As you read, identify what you don't know. Are there unfamiliar words, or familiar words used in an unfamiliar way? Look them up.
- Remember that there are two important things you want to be aware of as you read: What is the author saying? What do I think about it?
- Think first about what the author means to say. For example, what does the title mean? How does the author show us rather than tell us about a character’s development, or about the way two characters relate to each other? Look for important events or descriptions and make note of them.
- Then ask yourself what was important to you as you read. What was your reaction? Why did you identify the key points you did? What do these moments suggest to you are the most important themes of the book?
- Perhaps most difficult is the question of why you had the reactions you did. Can you identify elements of your own perspective that led to your reaction? Are there issues that you now see in a new way?
Second, after some active reading, please submit an answer to the Summer Common Reading Response Essay. You do not need to write a long essay, but it is important that you submit an answer before you arrive on campus for orientation.