BY KASEY CHEN
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong
For five years in a row, University of Alaska Southeast has chosen a book for the One Campus, One Book (OCOB) program. This year is no exception, and the selected title for 2016-17 is Mixed: Multiracial College Students Tell Their Life Stories. The book features twelve essays from Dartmouth college students who identify as multiracial, and delves into their life experiences, exploring the concept of identity. Attendees of New-Student orientation were provided a copy of the book with the goal of creating a common reading experience among incoming students. If students were not able to pick up one of the complementary copies of the book, the entirety of it is available online. Professors were encouraged to incorporate the book into their learning plans, helping students to further investigate the theme: Negotiating Identity in America.
Christina Gomez, the co-editor of Mixed and Professor of Liberal Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), visited UAS this month, meeting with classes, and providing a lecture entitled, “Negotiating Identity in America,” for the Evening at Egan series on November 11. Gomez also spoke at the Power and Privilege Symposium on the obstacles faced by undocumented, higher-education students in her presentation called “The Act of Dreaming: Undocumented Students in the United States.”
Students were given the opportunity to speak more personally with Gomez before her Evening at Egan lecture at the Mixed Mixer held in the Glacier View Room. An intimate group gathered around a large table consisting of pushed together desks for an informal discussion with Gomez. Points of dialogue ranged from Gomez’s experience in Juneau to follow up questions about her preceeding lectures. Among those in attendance were members of the three-person committee that selected the book for this year, which included Assistant Professor of Education Lisa Richardson, Assistant Professor of Humanities Richard Simpson, and Assistant Professor of Library Science Jonas Lamb. Lamb acted as the committee chair.
Members of the panel are tasked with the mission of shaving down the long list of titles provided by publishing companies and recommendations from students and staff to a workable number. Each member then reads five to seven books and presents their findings to the rest of the committee before arriving at the ultimate selection.
Past choices for the One Campus, One Book Program have included At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson; Being Caribou by Karsten Heur; The Truth About Stories by Thomas King, John Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez and last year’s pick, Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir, written by UAS faculty member Ernestine Hayes. Hayes’ memoir was selected as the 2016 choice for Alaska Reads, a program similarly targeted at a shared reading experience. OCOB all started in 2010 with “Listening is an Act of Love” by David Isay, another collection of stories pulled from NPR’s series, Storycore. The committee is currently in the process of finding next year’s selection already.
The students featured in Mixed come from various economic backgrounds, and represent a diverse mixture of races and cultures. In the essays, contributors discuss family, friends, and partners and how they view the impact of their racial identity upon their relationships. The concept of a supposed post-racial world is brought up, and with it the notion that multiracialism is often hailed as the end to race and racism, an idea that is challenged many times throughout the essays. The book is divided into three sections, each one addressing a different aspect of the multiracial experience. The first section, Who Am I?, addresses others’ perceptions of the multiracial students, judgments often based on physical features, and how they are often out of sync with how the students self-identify. In-Betweenness is the second section that features four more essayists who tackle the idea of racial fluidity and the positives and negatives that come as a result. The last section, A Different Perspective hits on how multiracial people are afforded a unique viewpoint and how it has led them to approach other areas of their lives. The book is following those that came before it in the OCOB series by creating a sense of community at UAS and sparking conversation among students both in and out of classes.