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2019-2020 KU Common Book Events, Tales of Two Americas

Student Soapbox: Tales of Two Americas

October 9, 2019

10:30 AM-12 PM

3 West, Watson Library

The Library will host the Student Soapbox. The common book focuses on the boundaries created in a divided America and explores the writers’ lived experiences, both striated by boundaries, but also sharing common stories to bridge these huge gaps. Students will use this Soapbox to mirror that exploration process, asking them to examine their own experiences living in this divided nation and reflect on how those experiences will shape their experience at KU. Students will be asked to submit a short (300-500 word) essay comparing their lived experience with someone they know whose experience is very different. Students will be placed in small groups and will read from their own submissions if they choose, or students can review the work silently if they do not wish to read aloud. Those standing on their "Soapbox" will be able to receive feedback on their writing from their groupmates. The facilitators will distribute some guiding questions for students to discuss how each experience might be impacted differently at KU, and how they might work consciously toward building a shared community.


2019-2020 KU Common Work of Art

September 7-December 1, 2019

Spencer Museum of Art 

The Spencer Museum of Art has selected the photograph Twelve Drive-Ins I by Jeff Brouws as the KU 2019–2020 Common Work of Art to accompany KU’s newest Common Book, Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation, an anthology edited by John Freeman. Brouws’s print depicts 12 separate photographs of American drive-in movie theaters in nondescript locations. Drive-in theaters are a distinctly American phenomenon associated with the 1950s and 1960s. Yet, these drive-ins are all devoid of human activity, and many seem long-abandoned, suggesting deindustrialization, isolation, and nostalgia for a past when these sites were thriving social opportunities for spectacle and escape from everyday life.

The Common Work of Art will be will be on view in the exhibition Visible and Divisible America: In Conversation with the 2019–2020 KU Common Book from September 7 to December 1, 2019.

Read the LJ World Article here.

Q & A with Kiese Laymon

October 4, 2019

10-11 AM

Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Union

Join us for a Q & A with Kiese Laymon, moderated by Cody Charles form the Office of Multicultural Affairs. This event is free and open to the public.


An Evening with Kiese Laymon-KU Common Book Keynote Lecture

Thursday, October 3, 2019

7 PM

Lied Center

Kiese Laymon, celebrated author and contributor to the 2019-2020 KU Common Book, Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation, will present the fall keynote lecture for the University of Kansas’s Common Book program at 7 p.m., Thursday, October 3 in the Lied Center. 

Laymon’s essay in Tales of Two Americas, “Outside,” addresses the outcomes of mass incarceration in America and is typical of his writing style—observant, perceptive, and powerful. 

Susan Klusmeier, Interim Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies will give opening remarks and Jennifer Ng, Interim Vice Provost for Diversity and Equity and Associate Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, will introduce the speaker.  On Friday, October 4, Laymon will participate in a moderated Q&A period beginning at 10 a.m. in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union with Cody Charles, Associate Director for Diversity Education and Social Justice Programs in the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

In addition to his contributions to Tales of Two Americas, Laymon is the author of Heavy: An American Memoir, which was awarded the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction and the 2018 Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose.  Heavy was named a best book of 2018 by the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, NPR, Broadly, Buzzfeed, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, and was a finalist for the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction.  The audiobook, read by the author, was named the Audible 2018 Audiobook of the Year.  He is also the author of the essay collection How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America (2013) and the novel Long Division (2013).  Among other publications, Laymon has written for Gawker, Esquire, ESPN The Magazine, NPR, Colorlines, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Ebony, Guernica, The Oxford American, and Lit Hub.

The KU Common Book program connects first-year students to the campus community through discussion and lectures.  Tales of Two Americas will be used in over 100 sections of classes this fall.

The event is open to the public.  Tickets are not required but space is limited. 

Votes & Views

September 26, 2019

3-5 PM

Spencer Museum of Art & KU Natural History Museum

KU students are invited to get to know KU’s museums at this event offered in conjunction with the 2019 KU Common Book, Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation. Which works of art would you display in the White House if you were President? Which species would you vote to protect? Exercise your right to vote and explore what influences your choices. Refreshments provided. Please view the event flyer.

KU Common Book Discussion Groups

KU Common Book Discussion Groups

Sunday, August 25, 1:30-3 PM

Various Locations

The KU Common Book Discussions will be held by the Office of First-Year Experience. All new students will meet with returning student leaders and faculty, staff and administration to discuss Tales of Two Americas, KU's Common Book for 2019-20. These discussions are an important part of Hawk Week and will help students be best prepared for the academic year ahead. In advance of the discussions, you may view and prepare notes using the 2019-2020 KU Common Book Discussion Questions and Community Expectations. For more information about the KU Common Book Discussions please contact Howard Graham at hgraham@ku.eduSee below for details on where to meet for your KU Common Book Discussion:

Residence Hall

Discussion Building

Self & Oswald

1st Floor Fraser


1st Floor Wescoe


3rd Floor Wescoe

Downs & McCarthy

4th Floor Wescoe

KK Amini, Battenfeld, Douthart, Grace Person, Krehbiel

The Commons

Margaret Amini, Miller, Pearson, Rieger, Sellards, Stephenson, Watkins

Big 12 Room, Kansas Union


Jayhawk & Kansas Rooms, Kansas Union

Jayhawker Towers & Stouffer Place

Malott, Kansas Union


The Jay, Kansas Union

GSP & Corbin

Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Union


Common Areas, Templin


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