Diversity Common Reader book available

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me,” is this year’s selection in Northern Michigan University’s annual Diversity Common Reader Program. The book is available free to NMU students. (Photo courtesy of Macson McGuigan)

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University’s annual Diversity Common Reader Program revolves around a nonfiction book of interdisciplinary interest that advances discussions of diversity, inclusion and justice.

This year’s selection, “Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me,” is available free to NMU students. Two related virtual events are planned for Friday.

“Between the World and Me” was a National Book Award winner. It folds social critique into an intimate letter from Coates addressed to his adolescent son. The author shares the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, and from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder.

“This year, we felt it was crucial to select a book written from a Black perspective that addressed anti-Black violence and police brutality,” said NMU English professor Lesley Larkin, DCRP committee chair. “‘Between the World and Me’ is just such a book. Coates powerfully addresses the experience of living in a Black body in contemporary America. His work is informed by historical research, journalistic expertise and direct personal experience. It’s one of the most important contributions to Black social critique in recent memory, and it’s accessible and moving. We think it’s a book everyone should have a chance to read.”

“Between the World and Me” is highly relevant to the current moment, Larkin said.

“Coates discusses in detail the persistent violence experienced by African Americans, illuminating links between enslavement, segregation, lynching, domestic terrorism and police brutality,” she said. “Published in 2015, Coates’s book responds to the killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and remains relevant in the wake of the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.”

Students can obtain copies of the book at the Multicultural Education and Resource Center, Lydia M. Olson Library, English Department, Office of Diversity Services and DeVos Art Museum.

An interdisciplinary series of events connected to the book and focused on racial justice will also take place, starting next semester. Details are still being solidified. To join the planning committee or to share an idea for an event, contact Larkin at llarkin@nmu.edu.

Larkin said there will be two virtual events on Friday associated with NMU Theatre and Dance: a panel discussion at 2 p.m. and a live-streamed staged reading at 7 p.m., said Larkin.

“For winter semester, we are planning a series of book discussions and lectures, as well as a poetry contest, among other events,” she said.

Interested NMU and Marquette community members can learn about the schedule of events as it is updated at www.nmu.edu/diversitycommittee/reading. NMU’s DCRP can be found on Instagram as nmudcrp.

In partnership with the DCRP, NMU’s UNITED conference will be re-envisioned this year to become a year-round initiative providing space to discuss the #BlackLivesMatter movement, intersectionality and systemic equity in the U.S. and abroad.

The DCRP is a campus-wide initiative established in 2013 that focuses on reading as a means of social dialogue and change. Sponsors include the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the College of Business, the Department of English, the College of Graduate Education and Research, the Lydia M. Olson Library, and the School of Education, Leadership and Public Service.


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