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Personal engagement in reading

By Jessica Anny
On October 20, 2017

Mexican novelist Yuri Herrera will visit campus on Oct. 23 to discuss his book "Signs Preceding the End of the World" for the English department's Common Read program. File Photo/The Lion's Roar

Students in English 101 and 102 classes were asked to read the book “Signs Preceding the End of the World” written by Mexican novelist Yuri Herrera. The book is told through the eyes of a woman named Makina, who is trying to cross the border to deliver a paper to her brother by the orders of her mother. All while doing this, she is experiencing the unique difficulties that arise from being a Mexican female.

As part of Common Read, Herrera is scheduled to come to campus on Oct. 23 to talk and answer questions about the book. Students can come and listen to what his thoughts are and ask questions of their own.

Instructor and Coordinator of Freshman English Natasha Whitton is excited that the students get to share an experience with the author on the book and write a paper on for their English class.

“Some students in the past have had a personal connection with the book,” said Whitton. “Some students have decided to pursue writing on the basis of their engagement with the Common Read authors. For others, the experience has provided an opportunity to talk to students in other courses across the university. For over a decade, the English department has brought a different author to campus each semester, and the conversations around their work have always been lively. In some cases, the students have shared how much they enjoyed meeting the author, because they could relate to his or her experiences.”

According to Whitton, 3,000 students reading the same book sparks conversation and creates friendships.

 “I hope that we can continue to offer this beneficial program to students in the future,” said Whitton. “As the coordinator of the writing program, I have had the pleasure of seeing both my faculty and their students actively engaged in understanding and exploring diverse literature over the years.”

Whitton hopes that the Common Read program gets students actively thinking and coming to hear the author speak will change their thoughts in a positive way on reading and writing.

Chair of the Common Read Committee and Associate Professor of English Jason Landrum explained why Herrera’s book was chosen. Landrum hopes the students can enjoy reading the novel. 

“We invited Yuri Herrera to campus because we wanted our students to have an experience with fiction from outside of our culture,” said Landrum. “Most novels about crossing the Mexican-USA border are told from the American point of view, but Herrera’s novel shows us a view of the border through the eyes of a Mexican girl. We hope the reading experience enriches our students understanding of the world they live in.” 

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