When they gather on campus later this summer, the Smith College class of 2021 will hail from far-flung countries and neighborhoods just up the road. They’ll come from all kinds of social, religious and economic backgrounds. Their beliefs will be as diverse as their life experiences. But there’s one thing the incoming first years will have in common; they’ll all come prepared to discuss this year’s Smith Reads selection, THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS.
The widely acclaimed 2014 novel by author Cristina Henriquez was chosen for its compelling story and broad appeal. It follows the Rivera family, newly immigrated from Mexico to Delaware in search of a better future for their injured daughter. Wrapped up in the powerful narrative are the surprising and inspiring stories of their neighbors, immigrants from across Latin America with their own reasons for leaving and their own indelible experiences.
Three students sit on the Smith Reads selection committee, including Tanimola Somolu ’20, who tells Grecourt Gate that this year’s selection is “a complex story told simply, and the characters are easy to relate to.” The committee hopes the novel will shine a light on an important issue and encourage students to act.
The first-year reading program Smith Reads was established in 1999 as “a way to give new students an introduction to each other, both intellectually and socially,” according to Dean Jane Stangl. Author Cristina Henriquez will speak at Smith on September 4th — we’ll keep you posted if they decide to live-stream it!