The first-year summer reading is intended to stimulate discussion and promote critical thinking on topics of contemporary relevance, as we enhance our connections to one another and provide a common intellectual experience for new students.
For years the Core Program has asked incoming Oxy students
to access or read a common text in the summer before they
matriculate. This summer common reading is a way to engage
new students, faculty, and staff in a conversation about
the selected book or other materials. The goals of the
first-year summer reading are to stimulate discussion and
promote critical thinking on topics of contemporary
relevance, as we enhance our connections to one another and
provide a common intellectual experience for new
students. At Oxy, we envision these opportunities as
an important first step in building and participating in an
The 2020 summer reading is organized around the idea of “The struggle for/the struggle against.” This year has had extraordinary personal and community challenges, for everyone in the world affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic, as well as for us locally at Oxy. In the early weeks of Spring 2020, our community lost two African-American students, Ilah Richardson and Jaden Burris. Barely two weeks later, we were faced with the sudden shock and stress of emergency remote instruction due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. These events left many of us vulnerable, and exposed some of the fundamental inequities in our society–and indeed, at Oxy as well. We selected this year’s texts to empower students and prompt awareness of social (in)justice. The texts we have selected illustrate multiple ways one can view equity and adversity: the struggle for and the struggle against.
There will be opportunities to engage in discussion of
these materials and topics throughout your first year,
starting with orientation and continuing through the fall.
We expect you to watch, read, and listen to the following
materials before orientation begins.
2020 Summer Reading List
Starred items (**) will require you to be logged in to your @oxy.edu account in order to access them. The others you should be able to access directly by clicking on the title.
- Hannah-Jones, Nikole. “1619 - Episode 1: The Fight for a True Democracy.” New York Times, 2019. [42 minutes]
- Thompson-Spires, Nafissa. “Heads of the Colored People: Four Fancy Sketches, Two Chalk Outlines, and No Apology.”** Excerpt from Heads of the Colored People, New York: 37Ink/Atria, 2018. [pp. 1-14].
- Baldwin, James. “On Being White... And Other Lies.”** Excerpt from Black on White: Black Writers on What It Means to Be White. (Edited by David R. Roediger), New York: Shocken Books, 1998. [5 pages].
- Bell, Derrick. “(Chapter Six) Humility’s Wisdom.”** Ethical Ambition: Living A Life of Meaning and Worth, Harrisburg: Bloomsbury, 2002. [pp. 157-168].
- Obama, Michelle. “Chapter 6.”** Becoming, New York: Crown, 2018. [pp. 81-95].
- True, Sarah; Cubanski, Juliette; Garfield, Rachel; Rae, Matthew; Claxton, Gary; Chidambaram, Priya; and Orgera, Kendal. “COVID-19 and Workers at Risk: Examining the Long-Term Care Workforce.” Kaiser Family Foundation, 2020.
- Diaz, Natalie. “Manhattan is a Lenape Word.” From Postcolonial Love Poem, Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2020.