UM-Flint 2016-17 Common Read: Between the World and Me

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UM-Flint's Common Read 2016-17 book "Between the World and Me"
UM-Flint's Common Read 2016-17 book "Between the World and Me"
Each year, the University of Michigan-Flint selects a text to bring the campus and community together in a shared learning experience known as the Common Read. For the 2016-17 academic year, Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me was selected. Common Read Co-Chair, Peggy Kahn of the Department of Political Science, gives the following introduction both to Common Read and this year's book:

What is Common Read?

The Common Read at UM-Flint is a university-wide project that began in 2011. Students, staff and faculty read a selected book in common. For incoming students, especially, this is an opportunity to see how reading is a part of higher education and a form of enrichment; how common reading can lead to constructive conversation; and how books can help us understand national and international debates and cultures. Faculty may opt to assign the book in courses, the Common Read Committee plans one or two high-level events (usually including an author visit), and faculty, staff, and students plan other discussions.

What can you tell us about this year's book?

In the form of a letter to his 14-year-old son Samori, Coates reflects on race and racism in the U.S., often in tones of despair and anger, emphasizing the vulnerability and violation of black bodies throughout U.S. history. He also stresses the importance of asking and wrestling with key questions, of reading, learning, and honest writing, of having close relationships, and of understanding the diasporic African community and its history.

Why was this book a good choice for UM-Flint?

This book is relevant to many national conversations about race and racism. It is powerfully written and short. The book itself has won great acclaim, [including] the 2015 National Book Award for Non-Fiction, and contributed to Coates' designation as a MacArthur "genius" Fellow.

Why should students, regardless of major, read this book?

Reading good books is an important way to build an educational foundation and broaden and deepen understanding. This book can help students see some of the urgency and complexity of public issues around race, and we all, regardless of major or occupation, live in a society marked by race as a social category. The book has interesting things to say about what an education is for. The book is powerfully written and well crafted.

What events do you have planned for this year?

Information for our main events are below. Please see the Common Read Events page for further details.

UM-Flint's 2016-17 Common Read Events

Common Read Kick-off

Date: Wednesday, September 14
Time: 3 – 5 p.m.
Location: Happenings Room, Harding Mott University Center

  • Introduction and Welcome: Doug Knerr, Provost, and Peggy Kahn, Co-Chair of Common Read Committee
  • Faculty Panel: "Reading Between the World and Me"
    – Alicia Kent, Associate Professor of English, "Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me and African-American Writing"
    – Charles Thomas, Associate Professor of Sociology, "Ta-Nehisi Coates on Race and Racism in Sociological Perspective"
    – Jacob Lederman, Assistant Professor of Sociology, "The Urban Sociology of Ta-Nehisi Coates: Baltimore, Race, and the Urban Crisis"
  • Video Introduction to Coates: Interview with Charlie Rose

Between the World and Me will be available for purchase.
Open to all members of the UM-Flint campus and community.

Book Discussion & Brown Bag Lunch

Date: Wednesday, October 26
Time: 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Location: Michigan Rooms A & B, Harding Mott University Center

Facilitated by Common Read Co-Chair Peggy Kahn.

Common Read Discussion & Brown Bag Lunch Facilitator Peggy Kahn, UM-Flint Common Read Co-Chair and Professor of Political Science
Common Read Discussion & Brown Bag Lunch Facilitator Peggy Kahn, UM-Flint Common Read Co-Chair and Professor of Political Science

Sponsored by the Women's Educational Center.
Open to all members of the UM-Flint campus and community.

Common Read Keynote

Date: Thursday, November 3
Time: 4 – 6 p.m.
Location: KIVA, Harding Mott University Center

  • Welcome and Introduction: Doug Knerr, Provost, and Chris Molnar, Assistant Professor of History
  • Keynote Speaker: Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Professor of History, Race and Public Policy, Harvard University
    About the Speaker: Khalil Gibran Muhammad is a historian and public voice in the area of history, race, crime and public policy. He is currently Professor of History, Race and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Between the World and Me will be available for purchase.
Open to all members of the UM-Flint campus and community.

In what ways will the book be utilized on campus?

Some instructors are teaching all or part of the book in classes, others are strongly recommending reading and attendance at Common Read events. Additional discussions outside of classrooms are planned.

What do you hope readers gain from reading this book?

The Common Read Committee hopes that readers will appreciate the voice of this particular author, Ta-Nehisi Coates, as he addresses, through his own biography and his investigations of race and racism in the U.S., his son. We hope that readers think more deeply about the issues of race and racism in the U.S. We hope that students in particular will, through this experience, come to value reading and discussion and think about what it would mean to develop a habit of reading.  We hope that our first-year students will learn through this program a bit more about the sort of explorations that are part of university life.

Between the World and Me is available for check-out in the UM-Flint Library and available for purchase at the UM-Flint Bookstore.

For more information on the UM-Flint Common Read, please visit or contact a committee member.

UM-Flint Common Read Committee members include Peggy Kahn, Ph.D., Co-Chair, David M. French Professor of Political Science; Mary Jo Sekelsky, Ed.D., Co-Chair, Executive Director for Alumni Relations; Heather Dawson, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology; Laura Friesen, Reference & Instruction Librarian; Guluma Gemeda, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Africana Studies; Stephanie Gelderloos, Lecturer in Writing; Amy Hartwig,Communications Specialist, College of Arts and Sciences; Jennifer Hogan, Director of Event and Building Services; Adam Lutzker, PhD, Associate Professor of Economics; Chris Molnar, PhD, Assistant Professor of History.

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