Academic First Year Experiences

  • Book covers 2007-2018

    Common Read Titles 2007 - 2018

Archived 2018-2019 Common Read: Becoming Nicole

To the Entering Freshman Class of Fall 2018

Becoming Nicole book cover

Welcome to Cal State Northridge! CSUN's Freshman Common Reading for 2018-2019 is Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt.

As a new freshman, you are invited to read this book and to discuss it as part of a campus-wide community of readers. If you are enrolled in UNIV 100, you will have the opportunity to read Becoming Nicole as part of the course. But even if you're not taking UNIV 100, reading and talking about the book will remind you that shared intellectual engagement is at the very center of the academic community that you are about to join. The Freshman Common Reading Program invites everyone on campus to think, talk, and learn together across and beyond the boundaries of the classroom by using the book as a starting point.

Read this book; talk about it with other students; discuss it with faculty, with staff, with administrators, with friends, and even--who knows?--with your family.

About the book

This book is a true story about Nicole Maines, a transgender girl, and her family. Author Nutt tells the story of how Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys Wyatt and Jonas, and how when Wyatt was a toddler, he started insisting that he was actually a girl. The book chronicles Nicole’s life and her family’s journey towards acceptance and ultimate celebration of her identity. At times a deeply personal story, the book also chronicles the family’s long legal struggle in support of their daughter.

Becoming Nicole was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review and was also a Stonewall Honor Book in Nonfiction. “Becoming Nicole… is a transgender girl's coming-of-age saga, an exploration of the budding science of gender identity, a civil rights time capsule, a tear-jerking legal drama and, perhaps most of all, an education about what can happen when a child doesn't turn out as his or her parents expected--and they're forced to either shut their eyes and hearts or see everything differently." (See

Wayne Maines, Nicole's father, has been prolific online and even wrote a blog for Huffington Post for several years: Nicole Maines gave a TEDx talk in 2016 which you can watch here:

Becoming Nicole speaks to myriad issues, including sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, advocacy, empathy, discrimination, “bathroom bills,” identity, belonging, family relationships, suicide, acceptance, and human rights. Its themes may connect to courses taught in many departments and programs at CSUN, including Gender & Women’s Studies, Psychology, Queer Studies, Sociology, Human Sexuality, Journalism, English, Social Work, Child & Adolescent Development, Stretch Composition, and of course University 100.

Assignment ideas for faculty and staff interested in discussing Becoming Nicole

Discussion topics and classroom assignments faculty and staff can use with Becoming Nicole are posted on the faculty-staff resource page. If you have a new idea to add to this collection, please email it to Susanna Eng-Ziskin, Oviatt Library.