Since 2013, incoming first-year students at Penn State Altoona have been given a book during their orientation to the university as part of the "Common Read, Uncommon Experiences" program. The program was designed as a bridge into Penn State Altoona's unique intellectual community--regardless of the student's major. The Common Read invites students, faculty, and staff into discussions about a single book, creating a community of engaged thinkers and active, responsible citizens.
Laura Rotunno, associate professor of English and Common Read coordinator, says, "With the Common Read, we hope to get people reading, thinking, talking, and then reading again. We hope to create debate and discussion. The program is designed to remind us of the power of books to change us and the world."
Students remain engaged with the book and its themes throughout the academic year in their courses and at interactive co-curricular events, such as faculty panel discussions, writing workshops, library exhibits, theater performances, student-led events, and more. In the process, organizers hope to generate a common "buzz" of hallway discussions and impromptu campus happenings that involve students, faculty, and staff in education outside the limits of the classroom.
LaTanya McQueen's book And It Begins Like This has been selected as the 2019-2020 Penn State Altoona Common Read book. This collection of essays weaves together historical and genealogical research, folklore, Biblical passages, literary theory and criticism, and personal memory to examine the legacy of slavery and its relationship to Black female identity in contemporary America.
McQueen will give a public talk followed by a book signing on Penn State Altoona's campus on October 10, 7 pm. The event will be free and open to the public.