Inside USD

USD’s The Big Read: ‘The Things They Carried’

Monday, April 2, 2012

A survey done in 2004 by the National Endowment for the Arts found that not only is literary reading in America declining among all groups, but also the rate of that decline has accelerated.

As a response to the survey’s findings, The Big Read program was created to get the American community reading again. In 2008, the Black Storytellers of San Diego, Inc., approached the University of San Diego to join them as community partners to put together the campus’ first Big Read, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

This month, USD is hosting its The Big Read on campus, and this year’s event features author Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. What this entails are free group book discussions —April 3 and April 24, both from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in the Hahn University Center’s Room 107 — as well as a keynote event, which will feature O’Brien at 7 p.m. on May 1 in the UC Forums A/B. On-campus support for The Big Read at USD come from the Center for Inclusion and Diversity, Center for Community Service-Learning, the Center for Awareness, Service and Action and the Center for Educational Excellence.

Christopher Vasquez ’13, one of the book discussion leaders, describes the book as “fantastic for many reasons.” He said that he agreed to co-lead the book discussions because it’s an amazing book and he wants to help. Vasquez said The Things They Carried is “a fragmented depiction of the Vietnam War… [in which O'Brien] teaches you the importance of conveying what needs to be said.”

Associate Provost and Director of USD’s Center for Inclusion and Diversity and English Professor Carlton Floyd, PhD, is heavily involved in The Big Read program. He originally got involved because he firmly believes in the power of narratives to “affirm, explain and examine our lives.” His highest hope in assisting with this event is to bring people who would not normally have met together with a commonality that will allow them to build relationships.

Floyd describes O’Brien’s book as “profound in many ways” and says “it is really about the things we all carry, psychologically, physically, emotionally and their weight and impact on us and others in the world.” Coming together, knowing that we all carry around an immense amount of burdens will allow our community to come together and bond.

To bring more community members together for The Big Read, two USD alumnae have had their high school classes read O’Brien’s novel. Both said they are bringing their students to the May 1 event at USD.

Natalie Zanzucchi ‘07, who teaches at High Tech High, received 26 books from CID and is sharing them with her students and any others that would like to join in the event. Zamequa Lopez ‘11, currently teaching at the School of Creative and Performing Arts in San Diego, said her class just finished reading the book and not only will they be attending the May 1 event, but they will be accompanied by their parents.

— Aryana Abraham ‘14

There is a Facebook page for The Big Read USD for further discussion and information.

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