The Common Read

Each year, the DAC, in consultation with School of Education and Human Development community members, chooses a book to serve as the Common Read. The Common Read is a signature, School of Education and Human Development-wide event that provides opportunities for discussion, introduced through an annual Fall Common Read Kick-Off event, Common Read overview for all new and returning students at fall orientation, a brief discussion at the annual faculty retreat, and on-going workshops presented over the fall semester that are open to faculty, staff, and students. Faculty are encouraged to incorporate the subject matter into their courses throughout the year. The Common Read provides a venue for learning, sharing diverse points of view, fostering open discussion, and building respect for each other and new and different ideas. If you have a suggestion for a future Common Read, please email

Here are our current and past Common Reads:


Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning
by Cathy Park Hong (2020)

Cathy Park Hong's Minor Feelings Book Jacket

The Office of DEI and EHD’s Diversity Action Committee are proud to announce this year’s Common Read: Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong (2020). Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose the truth of racialized consciousness in America. Binding these essays together is Hong's theory of "minor feelings." Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. Given the rising rates of Asian-American hates crimes, made worst as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Common Read invites us into anti-racist reflections around the Asian and Asian American community on Grounds and beyond. We will partner with groups on campus to help us with programming around this topic for Common Read activities, as they bring their expertise into our space. Be on the lookout for updated programming throughout the year by checking out this page!


The Privileged Poor
by Anthony Abraham Jack (2019)

The Ivy League looks different than it used to. College presidents and deans of admission have opened their doors―and their coffers―to support a more diverse student body. But is it enough just to let them in? In The Privileged Poor, Anthony Jack reveals that the struggles of less privileged students continue long after they’ve arrived on campus. In their first weeks they quickly learn that admission does not mean acceptance. In this bracing and necessary book, Jack documents how university policies and cultures can exacerbate preexisting inequalities, and reveals why these policies hit some students harder than others.


By Tara Westover (2018)

At seventeen, Tara Westover walked into a classroom for the first time as a new college student at Brigham Young University. Born to survivalists in rural Idaho, Tara and her family were isolated from mainstream society as a result of her father’s fanatical beliefs about the government. When the family was sick or needed medical care, they did not see a doctor. When the children were old enough to attend school, they stayed home. Inspired by her brother, Tara taught herself math and self-studied for the ACT to gain admission to college. Tara went on to receive a doctorate in intellectual history from Cambridge University. Included on the New York Times bestseller list and a finalist for the National Book Critics award, Educated is about the transformative power of knowledge in discovering one woman’s sense of self.


Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism
By Ron Suskind (2014)

Imagine being trapped inside a Disney movie and having to learn about life mostly from animated characters dancing across a screen of color. A fantasy? A nightmare? This is the real-life story of Owen Suskind, the son of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind and his wife, Cornelia. An autistic boy who couldn't speak for years, Owen memorized dozens of Disney movies, turned them into a language to express love and loss, kinship, brotherhood.The family was forced to become animated characters, communicating with him in Disney dialogue and song; until they all emerge, together, revealing how, in darkness, we all literally need stories to survive.

2017 - 18

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race 
By Beverly Daniel Tatum (2017)

Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides. These topics have only become more urgent as the national conversation about race is increasingly acrimonious. This fully revised edition is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the dynamics of race in America.

2016 - 17

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis
By Robert D. Putnam (2015)

Our Kids has been hailed as “a groundbreaking look at the new landscape of diminished opportunities set in an age of fragile families, crumbling communities, and disappearing jobs.” Putnam exposes, through case studies of real people, the realities of how the American Dream is no longer accessible to people in lower income brackets. What makes this book particularly appropriate for the School of Education and Human Development is how the author investigates access not only to better schools, but extracurricular activities (like sport), family meals, church attendance…that is, multiple contexts all of us engage with in our work and lived experiences. There are implications at the personal, policy, and societal levels.

2015 – 16

Waking Up White (and finding myself in the story of race)
By Debby Irving (2014)

Debby Irving was a teacher, grew up in a “typical” American family, and firmly believed she was a “good person”. We love the book’s honesty in admitting that even when we “think” we know what’s right and admirable, we can be quite off-target; the book challenges the reader to take the role of the other but also to look deeply at our own experiences and how those shape our beliefs and behaviors about and around others.  The “aha! moment” the author talks of experiencing, the one that “shifted her worldview and upended her life plan” (from the book description), is a journey we hope we all can experience. Importantly, the book is a call to action; it provides numerous opportunities to examine your own experiences, regardless of your background, personal history, race, ethnicity, or class.

2014 – 15

Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha’s Vineyard
By Nora Ellen Groce (1988)

From the seventeenth century to the early years of the twentieth, the population of Martha’s Vineyard manifested an extremely high rate of profound hereditary deafness. In stark contrast to the experience of most deaf people in our own society, the Vineyarders who were born deaf were so thoroughly integrated into the daily life of the community that they were not seen—and did not see themselves—as handicapped or as a group apart. Deaf people were included in all aspects of life, such as town politics, jobs, church affairs, and social life. How was this possible?


Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
By Carol Dweck (2006)

Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success—but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals—personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.


Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do
By Claude Steele (2011)

Claude M. Steele, who has been called “one of the few great social psychologists,” offers a vivid first-person account of the research that supports his groundbreaking conclusions on stereotypes and identity. He sheds new light on American social phenomena from racial and gender gaps in test scores to the belief in the superior athletic prowess of black men, and lays out a plan for mitigating these “stereotype threats” and reshaping American identities.


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
By Rebecca Skloot (2010)

This book began the concept of a common read for the School of Education and Human Development; although it was not formally billed as a common read, workshops and a panel discussion at the Paramount Theatre lead the way to the series. The author of the book tells us that, “Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.