Common Reader selection explores themes of racism, inequality

September 16, 2020 | UHCL Staff

Common Reader selection explores themes of racism, inequality

University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Common Reader program is joining the national discussion about the impact of racial and economic inequality in American society by choosing the New York Times best seller, “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates,” by Wes Moore, as its Common Reader selection.

Each year, a committee composed of faculty, staff and a student representative chooses a book with overarching themes that resonate with UH-Clear Lake’s student population. Moore’s story illustrates how those born in difficult circumstances can change their entire lives by what he describes as “a single stumble down the wrong path, or a tentative step down the right one.”

Two young African-American boys named Wes Moore were born within blocks of each other in Baltimore in 1978. The author experiences tragedy and many serious challenges in his life, but went on to achieve success as a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and became a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran. The other boy had similar challenges and difficulties, but for a variety of individual, systemic and institutional reasons, turned to crime and ultimately went to prison to serve a life sentence for his involvement in a robbery that led to the murder of a police officer.

“The committee has selected this book because of the accessible way in which it weighs the promises and limits of democracy to ensure the privileges and obligations of citizenship are extended equally to all Americans,” said Clinical Assistant Professor in the First-Year Seminar and Humanities Anne Gessler. “We believe it’s a valuable for students to read because of Moore’s extended meditations on the value of creating communities of belonging.”

For new students adapting to college life, and for all students grappling with the uncertainties of the pandemic and its fallout, Gessler said the book provides an empowering model for how to find affinity groups, colleagues, and mentors who can connect them to vital academic and social resources while integrating them into UHCL’s campus community.

“By discussing ‘The Other Wes Moore’ alongside multi-disciplinary critical thinking texts and thematically related Common Reader programs, students will explore the complex interplay between one’s environment and one’s individual choices, and society’s cultural, institutional and structural anti-blackness, xenophobia and classism,” she said. “Additionally, students will encounter a wealth of ways they can become civically engaged in local and global communities and the political process, from joining a volunteer organization or studying abroad, to contributing to the school paper or even running for political office.”

Events planned for the semester include panel discussions focused the challenges of re-entering society after incarceration, domestic violence, and how social conditions affect people’s health. RSVP online for the first event, Ava DuVernay’s “The 13th” Watch Party and Panel Discussion, which will take place Thursday, Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. All events are virtual.

Learn more and find a detailed description of all the fall semester’s Common Reader events online.