Common reader unites campus: Award winning novel focuses on romance and racism

2016 Common Reader

By EMILY PRISK, Ranger Reporter


An era of hatred and war; a love story reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet; a conflict about race and cultural identity … the 2016 Common Reader plunges students into the story of Chinese and Japanese immigrants living in Seattle in the 1940s. Common Reader Coordinator Courtney Milleson encourages students to explore the best-selling novel “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford.

Reading the book will help students realize the importance of discussing difficult topics, such as racism and family arguments, said Milleson. “I want them to engage with conversations and understand that sometimes those conversations aren’t fun to have and are uncomfortable, but they have a voice, and their voice needs to be heard.”

The college uses the Common Reader to bridge the gap between students and faculty members, said Milleson. It is aimed especially toward incoming freshman, but also brings together the entire AC community.

Several faculty members will incorporate the book into their classes. From analyzing the characters’ relationships to listening to the Seattle jazz music featured in the novel, professors will be using the book to engage students in critical thinking, said Milleson.

“When cracking open your copy of the book, don’t be surprised if you find a few notes written inside,” she said. As the first effort to making students feel a personal connection to the AC family, faculty members have signed various pages, many with encouraging notes.

Incoming freshman should receive a copy of the book at Badger Bootcamp and New Student Orientation. Other students will be able to pick up Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet at the Ask AC counter on the Washington Street campus or from their instructors.

Several Common Reader events will be held throughout the year, including a visual arts competition and an appearance by the author. Ford will be speaking about the novel at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, in the Ordway Hall Auditorium.

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