This year’s West Virginia University Campus Read selection, “The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border” by Francisco Cantú, prods readers to consider timely, complex views on migration, law enforcement, politics and more, as Mountaineers continue to take on big issues and ask tough questions.
“I’m excited for our WVU family to get lost in Cantú’s experiences from his time as a border patrol agent along America’s southern border, but even more so, to discuss how each of us can relate to Cantú’s narrative, his inner conflicts and his examination of place, history and identity,” said Renée Nicholson, director of the WVU Humanities Center, which also oversees the Campus Read.
As with each Campus Read, the WVU community is invited to read along, join the conversation, and participate in events and activities throughout the fall semester. Nicholson encourages participants to reflect on the raw, nuanced complexities of the book’s themes from policy and politics to morality, humanity, family, trauma and nature.
“As consequential discussions around the world mull over migrant crises from Central and South America to Afghanistan, this year’s Campus Read not only opens the door to discuss issues grabbing daily headlines, but its masterful prose also offers lyric respite, in turns hardscrabble and beautiful,” she added. “The writing, the imagery, the trauma, the conflict, and the physical and mental boundaries resonate with a diverse group of students, faculty and community members.”
Cantú will visit campus as part of the David C. Hardesty Festival of Ideas Nov. 16. He will provide a reading and lead a discussion about the book, starting at 7 p.m. in the Mountainlair Ballrooms. This event is open to the WVU community and the public.
In addition to public events, thousands of students and faculty across disciplines are interrogating the themes of the book while finding critical and creative ways to articulate and showcase their learning. These can take the form of essays, photo essays, stories, poems, researched articles, and other works that stem from classes and discussion around the book.
Vanessa Crandall Yerkovich, director of education abroad who teaches the Global Campus Read course with WVU students and international exchange partners says the impact goes beyond a common reading experience.
“It’s amazing to see students on both sides of the Atlantic have discussions that lead to a better understanding of issues outside of their everyday lives,” Crandall Yerkovich said. “It also gives them a chance to encounter new experiences. One student even intends to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border during break, using the trip as the basis for the Digital Storytelling assignment.”
Undergraduates in an upper-level American Immigration History course are also reading Cantú’s book as they study the broader historical context of immigration issues, including border patrol, deportation policies, anti-Asian prejudices and anti-Muslim violence in the aftermath of 9/11.
Even if the book isn’t incorporated into specific coursework, students can still participate. The book is available for purchase in the WVU Bookstores, and undergraduates are encouraged to submit creative projects or scholarly works that will be considered for public display in the second annual Journal of the Campus Read.
“Education at WVU isn't just about classes or assignments,” said Susan Lantz, teaching associate professor of Marketing in the John Chambers College of Business and Economics who has also been an active leader of the Campus Read since its inception in 2015. “It’s about fostering a sense of community. The Campus Read serves as a platform for deeper learning across disciplines, and in this case, across borders. Moreover, it helps us learn and grow as one WVU while offering a safe space to indulge in critical thinking and intellectual discussion.”
In the spirit of cultivating community near and far, WVU Extension Service and the Campus Read are also partnering on a new program, Campus to Community Book Clubs. This fall, faculty and staff who register will receive a copy of the book to read and participate in mini book clubs around campus. They will be asked to explore how Cantú’s story provokes varying perspectives and personal meaning. In the spring, program participants will pay it forward, recruiting members and hosting book clubs in their own neighborhoods and communities. Books will be provided to these book clubs, as well. Information on how to engage is forthcoming and will be updated on the website.
To view a full list of upcoming Campus Read events, learn more about the author or find additional resources and reading guides, visit the Campus Read website. Readers may also download theme-inspired Zoom backgrounds and bookmarks.
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