Academic First Year Experiences

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Archived 2019-2020 Common Read: The Far Away Brothers

To the Entering Freshman Class of Fall 2019

The Far Away Brothers Book Cover

Welcome to Cal State Northridge! CSUN's Freshman Common Reading for 2019-2020 is The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham.

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 The Far Away Brothers 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

The book is a deeply reported story of identical twin brothers who escape El Salvador’s violence to build new lives in California—fighting to survive, to stay, and to belong. The book is  compelling and timely and it focuses on the very personal story of the twin brothers while at the same time weaving a broader picture of immigration today. Themes found within include immigration, belonging, resilience, mental health, adolescence, education, and family. We believe that it will appeal to a wide variety of departments across campus and engage our first year students.

Excerpt from the New York Times review: "One of the finest virtues of “The Far Away Brothers” is that it makes vibrantly real an issue that some see only as theoretical, illuminating aspects of the immigrant experience normally hidden from view. The obstacles the twins faced in getting their visas could be paradoxical, diabolical and sometimes downright ridiculous. Who would have known that their fate could ultimately hinge on finding a working fax machine in a small town in El Salvador? And on getting a signature from their parents, when the cruelty of their parents was the “official” reason they fled? (The real reason: A homicidal uncle was threatening to kill Ernesto, and enlisted the aid of a miniature goon squad to do the deed.)"

Author Lauren Markham has written extensively about immigration issues and you can find those articles on her website:

Assignment ideas for faculty and staff interested in discussing The Far Away Brothers

Discussion topics and classroom assignments faculty and staff can use with The Far Away Brothers 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.