"How could I, a grandmother, long retired from CSUN, fit in?"
The Common Reading Selection Committee has chosen The Soloist by Steve Lopez as the Freshman Common Reading for academic year 2009-2010. The book, a true account of the remarkable bond between a journalist and a homeless classically trained musician, is soon to be a major motion picture starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.
When Steve Lopez saw Nathaniel Ayers playing a two-string violin on Los Angeles' skid row, he was amazed by his ability and his agility. More than thirty years earlier, Ayers had been a promising classical bass student at Juilliard -- ambitious, charming, and also one of the few African-Americans in the program. Overcome by schizophrenia, Ayers gradually lost his ability to function. When Lopez finally meets him, Ayers is homeless, paranoid, and deeply troubled. Lopez finds instruments for Ayers to play (a violin, a cello, a stand-up bass and a piano), and helps him find housing. In the process of trying to help Ayers, Lopez finds that his own life is changing, and his sense of what one man can accomplish in the lives of others begins to expand in new ways.
The book will be assigned reading in many freshman courses. There will be campus-wide events that relate to the book, including speakers, lectures, recitals, and exhibits of student work. In addition, the College of Humanities will conduct its own discussion groups (alumni are especially encouraged to attend!). CSUN encourages all staff and faculty to read the book too as to help create a campus-wide climate community of intellectual engagement. The experience will offer freshmen the opportunity to extend the friendships they establish during the summer at New Student Orientation and to participate in the exchange of ideas, one of the hallmarks of university life.
Last Fall semester the College of Humanities hosted their first community book discussion on Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, CSUN’s 2008-2009 selection for Freshman Common Reading. The College distributed FREE copies of the book to interested community members who promised to attend the book discussion. The book discussion was a success! The response from the students, community members and the facilitator, Professor Maria Turnmeyer was overwhelmingly positive. Creating opportunities for our students, community supporters, and alumni to share an evening together discussing a compelling narrative not only advances the mission of the college and the university but also provides a space outside the classroom for our students and the community to teach and learn from each other.
We will host another evening conversation this Fall and you’re invited! This year’s selection will be The Soloist, by Steve Lopez. A powerful and compelling story about a journalist who befriends a homeless, gifted artist with mental illness. A firm date for the next community book discussion has not been determined by the college yet but if you are interested in attending and receiving a free copy of this book please contact Noreen Galvin at (818) 677-3301 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, to be added to our preliminary interest list.
Mary Eve Finestone, retired faculty member and CSUN supporter, shares her, "five and ten cents" from the Community Book Discussion of Nickel and Dimed
Somewhat reluctantly, I attended a gathering of about 20 students, 3 faculty, 2 administrators to discuss Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel & Dimed and also, it turned out, to share working experiences. How could I, a grandmother, long retired from CSUN, fit in?
In the past I had been concerned about my students' need to juggle school, job, commute, sometimes to the detriment of their studies. However, I was unprepared for the struggles of this group, for their stories of poverty, touched by violence, as in many cases they became the first of their family to attend a university. And here they were, at night, ready to examine the life of the working poor and to search for solutions.
My own and my children's student days were so privileged in comparison that I could not participate in the planned activity of comparing job histories; I could only offer some observations, but I came away full of admiration for this group and with the realization that the learning experience had been mine!