Common Reading

Alumna’s debut novel is SMU’s 2014 Common Reading

'We Need New Names' by NoViolet BulawayoFor the incoming class of 2018, SMU has chosen an acclaimed first novel that is also the first Common Reading selection to be written by an SMU graduate.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo tells the story of 10-year-old Darling, a Zimbabwean girl who lives in a shantytown called Paradise. Darling’s father has contracted AIDS – euphemistically called “the sickness” by the book’s characters – while working in South Africa. Her mother has left town in her own attempt to provide for the family.

Unexpectedly, Darling gets the chance to live in the United States with an aunt. But the golden opportunity doesn’t pan out according to her dreams when she begins her new life as an undocumented immigrant in Detroit.

“Bulawayo describes all this in brilliant language, alive and confident, often funny, strong in its ability to make Darling’s African life immediate,” wrote Uzodinma Iweala in The New York Times Book Review.

> SMU Magazine: Alumna traces career awakening to SMU

Judy Wertheimer’s review in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette states that “Ms. Bulawayo’s artistry is such that we can’t help but see ourselves in that wider world…. Darling is a dazzling life force with a rich, inventive language all her own, funny and perceptive but still very much a child.”

“We believe that this narrative will provide students with a wholly original reading experience,” said Associate Provost Harold Stanley in an e-mail to faculty and staff members dated Monday, May 19, 2014.

Bulawayo, known to many at SMU by her given name of Elizabeth Tshele, earned her master’s degree in English from the University in 2007 after receiving her bachelor’s in English from Texas A&M University-Commerce. In 2010, she received her M.F.A. in creative writing from Cornell as a Truman Capote Fellow. She recently completed a 2012-14 Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford.

Her pen name is a tribute both to her mother, who died when she was 18 months old (NoViolet means “with Violet” in her native Ndebele), and to her childhood home, the second-largest city in Zimbabwe.

Bulawayo’s semi-autobiographical first novel has received several prestigious awards and recognitions, including the 2014 PEN/Hemingway Prize for Debut Fiction, the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction, and the 2013 Etisalat Prize for Literature. Additionally, she became the first black African woman to make the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize (in 2013) and made The New York Times’ 2013 Notable Books of the Year list, as well as National Public Radio’s “Great Reads of 2013.”

We Need New Names is only the second work of fiction chosen for the University’s Common Reading since the program began in 2004. The first, How to Be Good by Nick Hornby, was SMU’s Common Reading selection in 2007.

Past SMU Common Reading books also include Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman (2004), Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich (2005), The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (2006), The Devil’s Highway by Luís Alberto Urrea (2008), Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama (2009), Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (2010), The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2011), The Big Short by Michael Lewis (2012), and The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore (2013).

The Common Reading Selection Committee is now seeking leaders for the pre-Convocation reading discussion. Discussion leaders will receive a free copy of the book. Active and emeritus professors from all SMU schools are invited to take part, as well as University staff members.

To volunteer as a discussion leader, or for more information on this year’s selection, contact Diana Grumbles, 214-768-3832.

> Learn more from SMU’s Common Reading homepage: smu.edu/commonreading

Common Reading author Wes Moore visits SMU Aug. 29, 2013

Wes Moore

Author Wes Moore will speak at SMU Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. Moore wrote the University’s 2013 Common Reading book, The Other Wes Moore.

New York Times best-selling author Wes Moore will visit SMU Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, to discuss his book, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.

The free lecture is part of the University’s 2013 Common Reading Program and will take place 5-6 p.m. in the Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom, Umphrey Lee Center.

> RSVP online for the Wes Moore lecture

Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Early arrival is highly encouraged. In addition, SMU will broadcast the lecture via live streaming.

The Other Wes Moore uses alternating dramatic narratives to tell the story of two kids with the same name, liv­ing in the same city. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, dec­o­rated com­bat veteran, White House Fellow and business leader while the other is serving a life sentence in prison for murder.

SMU Forum: One name, two fates: SMU’s 2013 Common Reading

The story “both disturbs and inspires readers with questions about the influence of family and education in the choices a young person makes,” said SMU Associate Provost Harold Stanley.

The event is sponsored by the Provost’s Office; the Gartner Honors Lecture Series; the Scott-Hawkins Lecture Series; Friends of the SMU Libraries; Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility; Department of English; Embrey Human Rights Program; Residence Life and Student Housing; and the Office of Student Affairs.

> Watch the Wes Moore live stream beginning at 4:50 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29 at smu.edu/live video
Visit the Maguire Center’s Common Reading site

Written by Alyssa Eubank ’14

Busy weekend in store for SMU’s Class of 2017

SMU Rotunda Passage 2012, photo by Clayton T. Smith

SMU Rotunda Passage 2012. Photo: Clayton T. Smith

Classes begin Monday, Aug. 26 for SMU’s 2013-14 academic year, and new students will have a busy weekend making themselves at home on the Hilltop. Highlights of activities for the Class of 2017, at a glance:

Saturday, Aug. 24

  • 4 p.m. Class photo – Dallas Hall lawn (wear white Mustang Corral T-shirts)
  • 8 p.m. “Night at the Club” student involvement fair and social event – Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports

Sunday, Aug. 25

  • 1 p.m. Common Reading discussion, The Other Wes Moore – residence halls and other locations
  • 4:45 p.m. Rotunda Passage – Dallas Hall (student line-up at west side, faculty line-up at Perkins Administration Building)
  • 5:30 p.m. Opening Convocation with speaker Gillian McCombs, dean and director, Central University Libraries – McFarlin Auditorium

One name, two fates: SMU’s 2013 Common Reading

Two boys with the same name were born within blocks of each other and less than a year apart. Both grew up fatherless in the same poverty-stricken Baltimore ghetto. Both experienced the same hazards of urban youth: racism, violence and trouble with the law. How did one become a Rhodes Scholar and investment banker and the other a convicted murderer serving a life sentence for killing an off-duty police officer?

SMU’s entering class of 2017 will examine the experiences of these two men whose lives turned out very differently, despite their similar backgrounds, in the 2013 Common Reading selection, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.

> Watch author Wes Moore discuss the book in his own words in a new YouTube window video

'The Other Wes Moore' book coverThe New York Times bestseller explores the contrast between the book’s author – who graduated from Johns Hopkins University and worked alongside Condoleezza Rice in the White House – and “the other” Wes Moore, whose path led to drug dealing, armed robbery and prison.

The difference between their destinies is troubling, and Moore the author aims to arrive at some conclusions about the factors and influences that led his counterpart down paths so divergent from his own.

The book “both disturbs and inspires readers with questions about the influence of family and education in the choices a young person makes,” wrote Associate Provost Harold Stanley in an e-mail to faculty and staff members dated Thursday, May 2, 2013.

The Common Reading Selection Committee is now seeking leaders for the pre-Convocation reading discussion that has become a first-week-on-campus tradition. Discussion leaders will receive a free copy of the book. Active and emeritus professors from all SMU schools are invited to take part.

To volunteer as a discussion leader, or for more information on this year’s selection, contact Diana Grumbles, 214-768-3832.

> Learn more about SMU’s 2013 Common Reading at theotherwesmoore.com

The Big Short discussion continues with expert panel Sept. 13

'The Big Short' book coverSMU continues its conversation about the 2012 Common Reading with a panel discussion on issues raised in Michael Lewis’ The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine.

The discussion, featuring both campus and business leaders, begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13 in SMU’s DeGolyer Library. A reception precedes it at 6:30 p.m.

The panelists include:

The event is presented by Friends of the SMU Libraries. Attendance is free, but space is limited. RSVP to Cindy Ruppi, Central University Libraries, 214-768-3225.

Visit SMU’s Common Reading homepage

SMU grad offers investor’s perspective on The Big Short Sept.10

John PhelanSMU’s 2012 Common Reading discussion continues at 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10, with the first Gartner Honors Lecture of the academic year.

“The Financial Crisis of The Big Short: An Investor’s Perspective” features University alumnus John Phelan, co-founder and co-managing partner of MSD Capital, L.P. The event will take place in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom and is free and open to the public.

Phelan co-founded MSD Capital in 1998 to manage the capital of Michael Dell and his family. (Dell is chairman and CEO of Dell Inc., the computer and IT company he founded in 1984 at the age of 19.) Phelan graduated cum laude with distinction from SMU in 1986 with B.A. degrees in economics and political science, as well as membership in Phi Beta Kappa. He earned his M.B.A. degree from Harvard University in 1990 and holds a General Course degree with an emphasis in economics and international relations from the London School of Economics.

A trustee of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the Aspen Art Museum and the Whitney Museum, Phelan also serves on the Investment Committee for the SMU Endowment. In addition, he serves on the North American Advisory Board of the London School of Economics and the Harvard Business School – Board of Deans Advisors.

> Learn more about SMU’s Gartner Honors Lectures online
> SMU Forum: Common Reading 2012: Anatomy of a financial disaster

Common Reading 2012: Anatomy of a financial disaster

'The Big Short' book coverBy the time the public learned of the 2008 U.S. stock market crash, it had been happening for more than a year. Author and journalist Michael Lewis sought out a relatively obscure handful of Wall Street hedge-fund managers – minor players even in their own companies – to answer the questions of who knew about the oncoming financial disaster and why they were unable, or unwilling, to stop it.

The result was The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, originally published in 2010. SMU has chosen Lewis’ work as the class of 2016’s first-year Common Reading Experience – the book every member of the Fall 2012 incoming class will read and discuss.

In an e-mail announcing the selection, Associate Provost Harold Stanley cited Lewis’ ability to “[weave] the stories of some lesser-known players in the financial crisis to illustrate … specific examples of corporate greed run amok as well as certain intrinsic ills of Wall Street in general.”

SMU News: Tate Distinguished Lecture Series presents Michael Lewis

Lewis is perhaps best known for his sports writing; his best-sellers include The Blind Side and Moneyball. Yet his knowledge of Wall Street culture comes from an insider’s perspective. His first book, Liar’s Poker, was an autobiographical account of his disillusioning experiences at the investment bank Salomon Brothers during the “greed is good” era of the 1980s. The Big Short describes the Wall Street players who created the arcane credit default swap market that bet against the subprime mortgage bubble and made millions as families lost their homes.

“[Lewis] has accessibly and expertly described a broken financial system that rewards bad decisions and fraudulent alchemy … then shifts the inevitable losses to the strapped U.S. taxpayer,” wrote Chuck Leddy in his Boston Globe review.

NPR: Michael Lewis on “How a Few Made Millions Betting Against the Markets”

Since its beginning in 2004, the Common Reading Experience has brought SMU faculty, staff and new students together for an introduction to the intellectual experiences of college life. Incoming first-year students receive the Common Reading book during summer AARO sessions and discuss it at informal gatherings led by SMU faculty and staff members and student leaders at the beginning of the fall term.

Past SMU Common Reading books include Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman, How to Be Good by Nick Hornby, The Devil’s Highway by Luís Alberto Urrea, Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama, Zeitoun by Dave Eggers and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

The selection committee is now seeking faculty and staff leaders for the discussion event that has become one of the first shared experiences for new students during their first week on the Hilltop. Each discussion leader will receive a free copy of the book.

To volunteer, contact Diana Grumbles, senior lecturer in English and director of first-year writing.

Join SMU’s Common Reading group at Facebook

Calendar Highlights: Sept. 21, 2011

'Women, War and Peace' logoDiscussing research ethics: The Gartner Honors Lecture Series on SMU’s 2011 Common Reading concludes Wednesday, Sept. 21 with “HeLa Cells, Human Research Ethics and Genetics” by Fred Grinnell, professor of cell biology at UT-Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. The lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum. Free and open to the public.

A different kind of Disney: Philanthropist, documentary filmmaker and Hollywood legacy Abigail Disney will deliver a public lecture and an advance preview of her new series, Women, War & Peace, as part of the Embrey Human Rights Program‘s Fall 2011 Series on “The Arts and Human Rights” Thursday, Sept. 22 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater. The TV series, which will premiere on PBS Oct. 11, 2011, will be broadcast for five consecutive Tuesdays and reveals how women have become primary targets in a new kind of war fought by gangs and warlords using unconventional weapons. It also shows how women are becoming necessary partners in brokering lasting peace and leaders in forging new international laws governing conflict.

'White Metropolis' book coverThe 7 p.m. screening and discussion of one full episode will be preceded by a 4:30 p.m. Student Forum featuring highlights and conversation with Disney. Free and open to the public.

In addition, Disney will make a guest visit to KERA Public Radio’s “Think with Krys Boyd” before her SMU appearances. The segment will begin at 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22. Click here to listen live via streaming audio.

The Dallas way: SMU Graduate Liberal Studies hosts a Social Justice Reading Group presentation by Michael Phillips, author of White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001 – an examination of Dallas’ history and the roots of “Texas-style” politics. The presentation begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23 in 144 Simmons Hall. The event is free; seating is limited. RSVP to the Master of Liberal Studies Program, 214-768-4273

Calendar Highlights: Sept. 13, 2011

Scholar and author Stephen ProtheroThe Gartner Honors Lecture Series on SMU’s 2011 Common Reading continues Sept. 14 with”HeLa Cells and the Law,” featuring Jennifer S. Bard, the Alvin R. Allison Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Faculty Research, and Development Director, Health Law Program, at Texas Tech University School of Law. She also serves as associate professor (adjunct) in the Department of Psychiatry at Texas Tech University School of Medicine. The lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum. Free and open to the public.

Scholar and bestselling author Stephen Prothero (top right) will speak on “God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World” as part of SMU’s Willson Lecture Series. The lecture draws its title from Prothero’s 2010 book by the same title, in which he argues that attempts to portray all religions as different paths to the same God overlook the distinct human problem that each seeks to solve. The lecture begins at noon Sept. 15 in the Mack Ballroom, Umphrey Lee Center. Free and open to the public. Read more about Stephen Prothero from SMU News.

Meadows Opera Theatre performs in the Opera Free for FallThe Meadows Opera Theatre (bottom right) celebrates SMU’s 2011 Family Weekend with a new Opera Free for All at 1 p.m. Sept. 16 in the Bob Hope Theatre Lobby, Owen Arts Center. Called “New Faces and Old Friends,” the show will feature new and returning soloists in the Meadows Opera Ensemble performing arias, songs and scenes. Free and open to the public; bring your lunch. For more information, call the Division of Music, 214-768-1951. Read a 2010 Q&A on the Opera Free for All with Meadows Opera Theatre Director Hank Hammett, by SMU Meadows student Chris Calloway.

Gartner Honors Lecture Series presents talks on 2011 Common Reading

Common Reading 2011 Gartner Honors Lecture Series posterSMU’s Gartner Honors Lecture Series will host leading experts to discuss the medical, ethical and social issues presented in the 2011 Common Reading, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

The series begins Sept. 7 with “HeLa Cells Up Close,” presented by Joel M. Goodman, professor of pharmacology and Jan and Bob Bullock Distinguished Professor for Science Education at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. The lecture takes place in O’Donnell Lecture Hall, Owen Fine Arts Center.

A Sept. 14 lecture, “HeLa Cells and the Law,” features Jennifer S. Bard, the Alvin R. Allison Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Faculty Research, and Development Director, Health Law Program, at Texas Tech University School of Law. She also serves as associate professor (adjunct) in the Department of Psychiatry at Texas Tech University School of Medicine. The lecture takes place in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum.

The series concludes Sept. 21 with “HeLa Cells, Human Research Ethics and Genetics” by Fred Grinnell, professor of cell biology at UT-Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. The lecture takes place in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum.

All lectures begin at 6:30 p.m. and are free and open to the entire SMU community as well as the general public. For more information, visit the 2011 Common Reading homepage.

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