2020 Common Read unveiled

2020 Common Read cover

Rebecca Bott-Knutson, dean of South Dakota State University’s Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College, revealed Wednesday “There, There” is the 2020 Common Read selection.

“There, There” is the first book by Tommy Orange, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes of Oklahoma. For “There, There,” Orange received the National Books Critics Circle for Best New Book, the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and the PEN/Hemingway Award for Distinguished New Novel.

“We have a Common Read that allows rich entry points for learning and connection. The multiple character perspectives open the possibility for our community to consider the power of narrative and storytelling toward complex truths and perspectives,” said Sharity Bassett, an SDSU assistant professor of American Indian studies. “Orange boldly draws us into contemporary realities of violence and adversity that are rooted in a history of colonization.

“Like so many other contemporary American Indian artists and authors, Orange does not shy away from the ongoing dissonance of colonization, inviting his readers to be challenged,” she continued. “These moments of challenge in his narrative scope create powerful possibility for growth and learning for SDSU and the broader community. We are drawn into the lives of Orange’s characters. We root for them. We mourn. A collective acknowledgement of what colonization means for Indigenous peoples is a look toward the future.”

Megan Olson, a first-year academic advisor, liked the similarities and differences in “There, There.”

“I feel like my 18-year-old self would’ve enjoyed this book coming into college. First, the short stories make it easy to read and kept me engaged. The characters show different perspectives about similar topics,” she said. “Part of coming to college is learning new perspectives from all of the people you meet. For example, the book takes place in Orange County—a large, urban area—while our students are living in Brookings—a small, rural city. Incoming first-year students might relate more toward a certain setting or fall somewhere in between. Students can feel a sense of similarity while also learning about differences in culture and identity of others’ upbringings.”

As part of the Common Read, numerous events and conversations will occur on campus and in the community during the fall to engage in the topic.

“We are thrilled that this Common Read coincides with the opening of our new American Indian Student Center, the Wokini Initiative and in partnership with faculty from the American Indian Studies program,” Bott-Knutson said. “This provides a unique opportunity for numerous positive synergies in elevating education, support and appreciation related to the five themes of the 2020 Common Read.

“Our themes play off the title of our Common Read, together forming the acronym THERE,” she continued. “They are:

  • Truth—storytelling;
  • Healing—trauma, adversity, violence, renewal;
  • Exploration—of self, space, history of colonization, identity, culture, awareness;
  • Relationships—community, kinship, connection, intertwining, unity; and
  • Empowerment—acknowledging/naming the past and looking to the future; education; purpose.”

The campus and community Common Read serves as a vehicle for academic challenge and supports the cross-curricular mission of enhancing diversity, inclusion, equity and access. Bott-Knutson said it’s an opportunity for students to share in a common intellectual experience with one another and with faculty and staff. It further showcases the robust relationship between the Brookings community and SDSU and how both invest in an enriching educational experience.

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