A Shocking Summer Reading Assignment

Freshman Summer Reading in South Carolina Universities
“Big Reads” on South Carolina Campuses reveal institutional values

Here is the book The College of Charleston has assigned for incoming freshmen to read over the summer (and study in depth in the fall):

College of Charleston
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
This autobiography by the author of the long-running strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, deals with her childhood with a closeted gay father, who was an English teacher and proprietor of the local funeral parlor (the former allowed him access to teen boys). Bechdel’s talent for intimacy and banter gains gravitas when used to describe a family in which a man’s secrets make his wife a tired husk and overshadow his daughter’s burgeoning womanhood and homosexuality. His court trial over his dealings with a young boy pushes aside the importance of her early teen years. Her coming out is pushed aside by his death, probably a suicide. (Review from Publisher’s Weekly)

How does Fun Home compare to the books assigned by other colleges in South Carolina?

You be the judge.

Charleston Southern University
Why College Matters to God by Rick Ostrander
A brief introduction to the unique purpose and nature of a Christian college education for students, their parents, teachers, and others. At last: a brief, readable introduction to the unique purpose and value of a Christian college education. (Review from Amazon)

The Citadel
We Were Soldiers Once…and Young by Harold G. Moore, USA, (Ret.) and Joe Galloway
In November 1965, some 450 men of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Hal Moore, were dropped by helicopter into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley. They were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. How these men persevered–sacrificed themselves for their comrades and never gave up–makes a vivid portrait of war at its most inspiring and devastating. (Review from Publisher’s Weekly)

Clemson University
The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone
Short-story writer and essayist Stone’s beautiful debut novel tracks the hopes and travails of a Mexican couple rent by figurative and physical borders. Lilia and Héctor have strong ties to Puerto Isadore—Lilia’s family has called it home for generations—but the allure of a better life in America prompts Héctor to entrust himself to a coyote and endure a terrifying and trying journey that lands him in South Carolina. (Review from Publisher’s Weekly) [MORE]

Coastal Carolina University
Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie
Best known as the founder of TOMS Shoes and as a contestant on The Amazing Race, Mycoskie uses his experience with TOMS, as well as interviews with leaders of non-profits and corporations, to convey valuable lessons about entrepreneurship, transparency of leadership, and living by one’s values. (Review from Publisher’s Weekly)

Converse College
In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve
Tekulve’s debut novel, winner of the South Carolina First Novel Prize, loops around and through the lives of one poor West Virginia family of Italian immigrants from the 1920s into the 1970s. Beginning with Emma Sypher, who marries a railroad worker in her small town of War, the constant here is hard, rural living. (Review from Publisher’s Weekly)

North Greenville University
Freshman 15: How to Put the Weight on In All the Right Places by Travis Agnew
Freshman 15 contains fifteen specific areas in which college students can practically give Jesus weight or glory. (Review from Amazon)

University of South Carolina
The Postmortal by Drew Magary
In 2019, the “cure for aging” — gene therapy — is legal in only four countries, but immortality can be purchased on the black market. The issue is divisive: gene therapy’s opponents use terrorist tactics to attack the black market while protests in favor of legalizing the cure turn ugly. The desire to cheat death ultimately triumphs. (Review from Amazon) [MORE]

Winthrop University 
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
Discarded motor parts, PVC pipe, and an old bicycle wheel may be junk to most people, but in the inspired hands of William Kamkwamba, they are instruments of opportunity. Growing up amid famine and poverty in rural Malawi, wind was one of the few abundant resources available, and the inventive fourteen-year-old saw its energy as a way to power his dreams. “With a windmill, we’d finally release ourselves from the troubles of darkness and hunger,” he realized. “A windmill meant more than just power, it was freedom.” (Review from Amazon)

Wofford College
One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni
When an earthquake hits, nine men and women of diverse ages and backgrounds are trapped in an Indian consulate. Cameron, an African American Vietnam vet, takes charge, striving to keep them safe. College student Uma, who brought along The Canterbury Tales to read while waiting for clerk Malathi and her boss Mangalam to process her papers, suggests that they each tell an “important story” from their lives. Their tales of heartbreak and revelation are nuanced and riveting as Divakaruni takes fresh measure of the transcendent power of stories and the pilgrimage tradition. (Review from Booklist)

Which one of these books is not like the others?

And exactly how bad is it?

Stay tuned for the story of the family that arrived at CofC freshman orientation with happy anticipation only to discover the deep commitment the College has made to Fun Home and all that it symbolizes.

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