Friday, September 21, 2012

First years critique common reading

Author of "Into the Beautiful North" visits PLU

by Rachel Diebel and Kelsey Mejlaender, Guest Writers

Luis Alberto Urrea wowed the crowd at his Thursday night lecture on his novel "Into the Beautiful North," this year’s  Common Reading Program novel.  He spoke for an hour and a half, telling stories to students,
professors and community members.

The event was part of the month-long celebration of new President Thomas W. Krise’s inauguration
Urrea mixed stories of his life with commentary about the novel.

“Humor is a virus that infects everybody with humanity,” Urrea said.

Adela Ramos, assistant professor of English and member of the faculty panel, discussed the book with first-year students.

“On one hand I was fascinated by him," Ramos said. "He is a wonderful performer and storyteller. I believe that he brought us a new perspective on Mexico."

The discussion at orientation addressed the sexualization of women, but Urrea did not focus on this topic in his lecture. 

“I understand that an artist does not want to be dragged into academic questions," Ramos said. “But I would have liked to see him talk about it more openly.”

First-year Sadie Lander said she was expecting a "higher reading level" for a college text.

“It was an appropriate story for Common Reading, but there were a lot of different ideas and most of them got dropped during the course of the story,” Lander said. 

First-year Brendan Stanton, however, "felt that it was a good introduction" to acadamic reading in college.
"The book was a good choice because it opened up many pathways to discussion and interpretation," Stanton said.

This is the first year PLU has required all students to participate in the Common Reading program. Previously only International Honors Students and other selected scholarship recipients had to read the book.

The Common Reading program will continue next year with a different novel.  Professors are asking for feedback from this year’s participants and involving them in the choice for next year’s book.
Ramos said she did not mind students' critiques.

“That’s good that the students come in with high expectations and they can name what they don’t like about it,” Ramos said.  “I loved the experience, being able to discuss the book across campus.  It really generated an opportunity to talk about the book together in a way I’d never been able to before.”