History Department
History Department

Freshman Reading Round-up on Tuesday, Aug. 25, '09

Wed, August 5, 2009
Freshman Reading Round-up on Tuesday, Aug. 25, '09
Freshman Reading Round-Up, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009

The classes will be held the day before the fall semester starts from 10:30 a.m. to noon and are scheduled all over campus. Here's a little more info on why each history professor chose the book they did for The University of Texas' seventh Freshman Reading Round-up event.

Prof. Robert Abzug, the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History and director of the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, chose Mongrel Nation by Clarence Walker because "It tackles the topic of the origins of our multi-racial society and racially mixed population in a succinct and direct way, and through the familiar figure of Thomas Jefferson," Abzug said.

He adds that it is an issue that is in the news today and "potentially affects their [students'] personal lives, and shows them the tortured history of the question of recognition of mixed race populations." Abzug hopes that by participating in Reading Round-up for Freshman that it will give incoming students an idea for both "the new and exciting intellectual challenges of university classes and at the same time the approachability of faculty in what may seem like an anonymous environment."

Ass't. Prof. Susan Boettcher selected Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn, because "it is fun to read, especially as the author gradually stops using different letters of the alphabet and thus has to twist his vocabulary very creatively." She also thinks that this book would appeal to incoming freshman, because "it is entertaining and light-hearted, but approaches significant topics that affect us all at the moment."

"It is an allegorical work perfect for summer reading that nonetheless addresses two themes: the balancing of tradition and innovation in society and government's relationship to the individual. Given the challenges facing the U.S. at present, 'What does it mean to be faithful to the intent of the founders?' is a question that all Americans should be asking themselves right now," Boettcher added.

She decided to participate in the Reading Round-up, because it is an ideal way for "informal contact with a professor and for students to learn that we are people, too! I also think it is a nice introduction to the idea that a university education is not just about grades—it's really about learning, and that happens as much in one's own mind and via the reading one does as in the classroom or in exam preparation," she said.

Assoc. Prof. Erika Bsumek chose an autobiography, Lakota Woman. "I picked this book to give the students a sense of the ways in which Native Americans  fought for their civil rights through activism—some violent and some non-violent, in the early 1970s," said Bsumek.

As a very forthright and engaging writer, Mary Crow Dog tells a fascinating story that has both tragic and successful outcomes. The majority of the book is about her life when she was students' ages—early 20s.

Bsumek recommends this book, because "most students know very little American Indian history and are completely unaware of the ways in which Indians utilized activism in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s to draw attention to the racism, poverty, and neglect faced by American Indian people."

Hopefully one of these will strike a cord with you, but there's no dearth of excellent books and professors to discuss them with at the university—now or later. Check out the Reading Round-up Book List now and sign up for a free class.

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