The 2021-2022 LMU Common Book
This year, we are taking a new approach to the LMU Common Book. Instead of focusing on a single title, we have selected five books, unified by a common theme, to be this year's "LMU Common Book Collection."
The selection of the 2021 LMU Common Book Collection was a collaborative process between the Academic Resource Center, the William H. Hannon Library, Rhetorical Arts, the Core, and new this year, students representing #BlackAtLMU. Collectively, these five books explore and reflect upon the Black experience in American and abroad, offering readers both local and global perspectives. The five books selected are:
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
by Yaa Gyasi
White Tears / Brown Scars
by Ruby Hamad
How to be an Antiracist
by Ibram X. Kendi
The Sum of Us
by Heather McGhee
The LMU Common Book program is designed to unite the campus community in a common intellectual endeavor that goes beyond the classroom. It is our hope that the Common Book serves as a mechanism through which students, faculty, and staff can all share a common experience through the uncommon discoveries in reading.
--John Jackson & Mia Watson, Co-Chairs of the LMU Common Book Program
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
"Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland."
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
"Ghana, eighteenth century: two half-sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.
One of Oprah’s Best Books of the Year and a PEN/Hemingway award winner, Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation."
White Tears / Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad
"Taking us from the slave era, when white women fought in court to keep “ownership” of their slaves, through the centuries of colonialism, when they offered a soft face for brutal tactics, to the modern workplace, White Tears/Brown Scars tells a charged story of white women’s active participation in campaigns of oppression. It offers a long overdue validation of the experiences of women of color.
Discussing subjects as varied as The Hunger Games, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the viral BBQ Becky video, and 19th century lynchings of Mexicans in the American Southwest, Ruby Hamad undertakes a new investigation of gender and race. She shows how the division between innocent white women and racialized, sexualized women of color was created, and why this division is crucial to confront.
Along the way, there are revelatory responses to questions like: Why are white men not troubled by sexual assault on women? (See Christine Blasey Ford.) With rigor and precision, Hamad builds a powerful argument about the legacy of white superiority that we are socialized within, a reality that we must apprehend in order to fight."
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
"Ibram X. Kendi's concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America—but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. Instead of working with the policies and system we have in place, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.
In his memoir, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science—including the story of his own awakening to antiracism—bringing it all together in a cogent, accessible form. He begins by helping us rethink our most deeply held if implicit, beliefs and our most intimate personal relationships (including beliefs about race and IQ and interracial social relations) and reexamines the policies and larger social arrangements we support. How to Be an Antiracist promises to become an essential book for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step of contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society."
The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee
"Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy—and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a common root problem: racism. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?
McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm—the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others. Along the way, she meets white people who confide in her about losing their homes, their dreams, and their shot at better jobs to the toxic mix of American racism and greed. This is the story of how public goods in this country—from parks and pools to functioning schools—have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, and inequality increased; and of how this country, unique among the world’s advanced economies, has thwarted universal healthcare.
But in unlikely places of worship and work, McGhee finds proof of what she calls the Solidarity Dividend: gains that come when people come together across race, to accomplish what we simply can’t do on our own.
The Sum of Us is a brilliant analysis of how we arrived here: divided and self-destructing, materially rich but spiritually starved and vastly unequal. McGhee marshals economic and sociological research to paint an irrefutable story of racism’s costs, but at the heart of the book are the humble stories of people yearning to be part of a better America, including white supremacy’s collateral victims: white people themselves. With startling empathy, this heartfelt message from a Black woman to a multiracial America leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than a zero-sum game."