Texas State's Summer Reading Program 2006 - 2007

The Mission of the Summer Reading Program at Texas State:

Starting a few years ago, Texas State University's new students have been encouraged to read a critically acclaimed book over the summer and prepare to participate in campus-wide conversations on the book during the next academic year. Texas State's Reading Program joins similar programs at hundereds of universities and colleges in the effort to engage and prepare students for discussion both at the university and with members from in the community.

The goals of University Seminar's Summer Reading Program are three-fold:

The Summer Reading Program initiative has the strong support of the University Seminar office, US 1100 group leaders and Dr. Ron Brown, Dean of University College. US 1100 course fees have purchased 7,500 copies of the book to support the program. As many departments and offices of the university as possible are invited to participate in the Common Experience.

This Year's Selection:

"Free societies . . . are societies in motion, and with motion comes tension, dissent, friction." -- Salman Rushdie

"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism" -- Howard Zinn

"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." -- Abraham Lincoln

The 2006-2007 Common Experience will engage in a campus-wide discussion of "Protest and Dissent: Listening to the Voice(s) of America," has at its center the idea that the United States of America is a heterogeneous nation, one with many voices. Rather than the idea that we as a nation have only one perspective or belief, students are encouraged to explore the idea that many people view many ideas in very different ways, and that as students and Americans it is ther responsibility to recognize that others have a right to dissent from both their own personal beliefs and the beliefs of those in power. Further, they also have the right to dissent from others' beliefs as well. How we respond to and listen to those whose beliefs are different than our own is, however, key.

This year's selection, Zoot Suit, takes place in Los Angeles in 1942 when a group of young Latino men were rounded up and arrested, reputedly for the murder of another young Latino. They were targeted primarily for wearing their "zoot suits," suits with baggy pants tailored at the ankles, and long jackets with broad shoulders. These "zoot suits" themselves were a form of protest, worn by young men to signal their rejection of American society and its prejudices. The travesty of justice of their prosecution, which came to be known in the muckraking press as the "Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial," led to some of the greatest civil unrest in wartime in the 20th century, rioting which began in Los Angeles, and spread across the nation.

The protests against the racism faced by Mexican Americans at this time were multi-faceted; however, the most powerful examination of the Zoot Suit Riots and their aftermath would come through the activist pen of playwright Luiz Valdez. In 1978, Valdez penned Zoot Suit, a protest play that detailed the inequities surrounding the incidences in Los Angeles n 1942 and 1943. Zoot Suit exemplifies not only a portrayal of the direct protest against the inequities of the Sleepy Lagoon Trial and its aftermath, but also the power of performance to serve as an agent of social change. It has been argued that Luis Valdez is the most celebrated and recognizaed Latino playwright of our time, and Zoot Suit is considered one his best.

Before you begin reading the book ...

contemplate what you are about to read, thinking about and making journal entries about such questions as these:

* Have you ever heard anything about this book or the author of this book?
* What meaning does the title of the book evoke?
* What impression does the picture on the cover make?
* How does any information contained on the front or back of the book influence you?
* How does the fact that the book has been assigned influence you?

To get the most out of this experience, follow the steps below:

-- Complete the assigned reading
-- Critically read and think, taking notes on what interests or disturbs you; what you disagree with, want to challenge, or do not understand
-- Complete the exercises and questions-and reflect further on your thoughts and feelings in response to the same in your journal
-- Meet in class (or discussion group) and participate fully in discussion (critical listening and articulating)
-- Write a journal entry that integrates your thoughts and feelings from the readings, the workbook pages, and the group discussion
-- Collect all your completed workbook pages and journal entries in a folder or portfolio as a record of your ongoing experiencing