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About the KU Common Book Program

KU Common Book is a campuswide initiative to engage first-year students.

A key component of Bold Aspirations, the KU strategic plan, is investing in first-year intellectual experiences. As part of this emphasis, KU Common Book will generate opportunities for shared intellectual experiences that invite analysis, foster critical thinking, and reflect the type of reasoned discourse expected at a university.

First-year students will receive the common book at Orientation and be encouraged to read and discuss the book at activities and programs throughout the year. The Common Book was selected by a committee comprised of faculty, staff, and students from nominations generated by the KU campus. Although the program focuses on freshmen and transfer students, the steering committee invites participation from all students, as well as faculty and staff who wish to include the book in their classes and programs.

The program is coordinated by the Office of First-Year Experience and is governed by the KU Common Book Committee, comprised of faculty, staff, and students from across campus.

Program Goals

  • Build community among faculty, staff, and students
  • Create a shared academic experience for first-year students
  • Encourage intellectual engagement through reading and discussion

About the Book

"America is broken. You don't need a fistful of statistics to know this. Visit any city, and evidence of our shattered social compact will present itself. From Appalachia to the Rust Belt and down to rural Texas, the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest stretches to unimaginable chasms. Whether the cause of this inequality is systemic injustice, the entrenchment of racism in our culture, the long war on drugs, or immigration policies, it endangers not only the American Dream but our very lives.

In Tales of Two Americas, some of the literary world's most exciting writers look beyond numbers and wages to convey what it feels like to live in this divided nation. Their extraordinarily powerful stories, essays, and poems demonstrate how boundaries break down when experiences are shared, and that in sharing our stories, we can help to alleviate a suffereing that touches so many people."

There are 36 contributing authors, including Kiese Laymon, Sarah Smarsh, Natalie Diaz, Roxane Gay, and Julia Alvarez.

(Materials provided by Random House)


A Letter from Vice Provost, DeAngela Burns-Wallace

If you would like to learn more about the selection of the 2019-2020 KU Common Book, please read this letter from DeAngela Burns-Wallace, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies. 


A Letter from the Final Review Committee

This letter from Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and Interim Vice Provost for Diversity and Equity, Jennifer Ng and Archana Ramakrishnan, Junior in Engineering, explains why Tales of Two Americas is a good choice for KU. 


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