The First-Year Reading Initiative selection for 2007–08 is “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress,” by Dai Sijie, according to Tanya R. Saunders, assistant provost and dean of the Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies.
President Peggy R. Williams selected the book from a list of four recommendations by a selection committee. The book is a coming-of-age story documenting the exile of two boys to the countryside for “re-education” during the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1970s.
Saunders is part of the seven-member committee of faculty, staff and one student. She said Sijie’s book examines the importance of education and the power of literature.
The committee also thought that the main storyline, involving people the students’ age, would appeal to the incoming class.
Junior Craig Rosenberg has served on the selection committee for two years.
“We look for books that people will be interested in,” he said. “It has to make people want to talk.”
Terry Martinez, director of student engagement and multicultural affairs, is also on the committee and expects the book choice to be a success.
“People will really enjoy it,” she said. “And it was beautifully written, which is what I liked most about it.”
The First-Year Reading Initiative is in its fifth year at the college. Last year, the committee decided to establish a new reading theme for every class, beginning with “Crossing Boundaries” for the book “Life of Pi.” This year’s theme is “The Power of One.”
“‘The power of one’ doesn’t refer to the individual, but to the community,” Saunders said. “It’s about what we can accomplish when we make connections with others.”
The first-year theme was introduced to link the different aspects of first-year orientation.
“Even though each part will talk about the theme in a different way, it will connect them with a common thread,” she said.
According to Rosenberg, the three other books that the selection committee recommended to Williams were “Ethical Ambition,” by Derrick Bell; “The Impossible Will Take a Little While,” by Paul Loeb; and “Hearts and Hands,” by Luis Rodriguez.