Category Archives: Author Essay

My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School

9780345511010By Carlotta Walls Lanier, on why she wrote A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School (One World, July 2010).

I started this book in earnest in January of 2006. I had in mind the upcoming 50th anniversary of our entry into Little Rock’s Central High School. This September 2007 event might have been the impetus, but it wasn’t the reason. (Besides, I sort of missed that deadline by a couple of years!)

As I say in the book, I didn’t talk much about my experiences until the late 1980s, after our 30th anniversary, when the nine of us were all together again in Little Rock and Bill Clinton was governor of the state. In the years that followed, Melba told her story in Warriors Don’t Cry. Ernie had a movie about his experience, The Ernie Green Story. Mrs. Huckaby, the assistant principal, told her story, which was made into a movie called Crisis at Little Rock. Back in the 1960s, Mrs. Bates had told her story in The Long Shadow of Little Rock. Continue reading

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What Happens When Disaster Strikes? A Message from Sheri Fink

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????By Sheri Fink, author of Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Crown, September 2013).

Memorial Medical was surrounded by floodwaters after the levees failed in New Orleans in 2005, drowning one of America’s great cities. Within hours, all power would fail. The heat rose. Rescue helicopters began arriving. They transported one or two patients at a time, but there were around 250 patients and 2,000 staff and family members. Who should be rescued first? Continue reading

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A Life Lesson for Every Student

THINK with borderBy Guy P. Harrison, author of Think: Why You Should Question Everything (Prometheus Books, 2013).

Students in their first year of college are experiencing a pivotal time in their lives: for the first time they are on their own, making decisions with real implications and seeing their world expand exponentially. Unfortunately, most institutions do not teach courses devoted to critical thinking, and even fewer make them required of students to graduate, despite the fact that critical thinking and logic are applicable to every discipline and are skills that students can use for a lifetime. Our students need to be armed with excellent critical thinking skills, and Think is just the book to teach them. Continue reading

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Orange Is the New Black: Piper Kerman’s Journey from Book to Netflix Series to Common Read

orangeBy Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison (Spiegel & Grau, 2010).

In the early 1990s, I was a graduate from an elite women’s college, a little lost and very much looking for adventure and finding it in an unlikely criminal underworld. In 2004, I was a successful professional standing at the gates of a federal women’s prison, about to start serving time for a ten-year-old drug offense. My book, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, details my plunge into the hidden world of America’s enormous prison system, the women and men I met there, and the profound effect that incarceration has on individuals and communities around the country. The book was adapted into the hit Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black. Continue reading

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Who would you be if you weren’t defined by your body? David Levithan on his New York Times bestselling novel Every Day

9780307931894By David Levithan, author of Every Day (Ember, September 2013).

When I was writing Every Day, I was guided by a set of questions. These questions also happen to be the ones I find that readers ask themselves most after reading the book.

Who would you be if you weren’t defined by your body? If you had no set gender or race or parentage or clique, if you were purely your inner self, who could you become? How would you define yourself?

I will admit to you: I had no idea how Every Day would work as an FYE book. Luckily this past fall I got to go to Northern Arizona University and see firsthand how it went. Continue reading

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How Shared Reading of a “Post-9/11 Novel” and an Author Visit Helped One School Heal

Let the Great World Spin JacketNew York Times writer Joel Lovell has written a thoughtful piece on Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin (Random House), which won the National Book Award, and a new novel, Transatlantic (Random House, June 2013).  Titled “Colum McCann’s Radical Empathy,” the profile is set in the recent aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy as McCann travels to the afflicted school to speak to the high school students upon a teacher’s request.   It delves into the value of Let the Great World Spin (which was added to the Newtown high school curriculum) as a transcendent history that can ease the pains of tragedy, “a book that,” Newtown teacher Lee Keylock says, “might help their students begin to make sense of their terrible shock and grief.”  From there, the article moves into McCann’s own life, crossing briefly into McCann’s childhood in Ireland, to his desire as a writer to work in “the blurred spaces between fiction and nonfiction.” Granting insight into McCann’s humor, gravity, and ambition, the piece permits a glimpse into the life of the man who writes, while “‘in the cupboard,’” about the magnitude of the world.

Colum McCann will be speaking at the 2014 First-Year Experience® Conference in San Diego, California.

Click here to read the full New York Times article

Click here for more information about Colum McCann

Click here for information about the author’s speaking engagements

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From The Inner-City To The Operating Room: How College Success Impacted Sampson Davis


By Sampson Davis, author of Living and Dying in Brick City (Spiegel & Grau, February 2013).  He will be speaking at the First-Year Experience® 2014 Conference in San Diego, California from February 14-18.

College—the beginning of a new frontier, at least it was for me. Growing up in Newark, New Jersey, a school system with dropout rate at more than fifty percent, I knew the odds were stacked against me. Not only did I beat those odds and graduate college, but I also went on to complete a medical degree. While I certainly worked hard for my success, I could not have achieved what I did without the help of many educators along the way.

One of those individuals was Dr. Linda Hsu, my college genetics professor. I will never forget and will always be grateful to Dr. Hsu for her kind acts, but one stands out in particular. It was the eve before my first day of medical school, and I had yet to receive my loan funds to purchase books. The weather outside was horrible with downpours and flood warnings. The hazardous weather might have impeded the mail delivery, but it didn’t stop Dr. Hsu, who stood all of 4’11″ with a powerful voice. She jumped into her two-door hatchback and drove to the dorm to deliver funds so that I could purchase my books the next morning. That act of kindness, and her belief in me, touched me deeply and cemented my view in paying it forward—“to whom much is given, much is required.” Continue reading

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Read Sonia Nazario’s NYT Piece on Plight of Immigrant Children

Enrique's Journey TP

In today’s New York Times (4/12/13) author Sonia Nazario contributed an op-ed which passionately argues against the injustices that immigrant children in America face.  Her piece builds upon themes she developed in her 2007 book Enrique’s Journey, an astonishing true story that recounts the unforgettable odyssey of a Honduran boy who braves unimaginable hardship and peril to reach his mother in the United States.  The book that has been chosen for common reading at numerous colleges and universities including Valparaiso University, the University of Missouri and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Click here to read Sonia Nazario’s article in the New York Times.

Below is a running list of all of the colleges, high schools and libraries that have selected Enrique’s Journey for common reading. Continue reading

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John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye, to Release New Book

Raising Cubby HCby John Elder Robinson, author of Raising Cubby (Crown, March 2013).

The Loch Ness Monster isn’t real. Dinosaurs are extinct. And no, kids can’t fly. That’s the sort of thing we all got from our parents. Every time we heard something fun and imaginative, it seemed like Mom or Dad was there to pop our balloon.

What if that didn’t happen?What if Dad agreed with every childhood fantasy and offered to go hunt Nessie in a boat, with a harpoon? That’s exactly what I decided to do when I got a shot at parenthood with a six-pound tyke I named Cubby.When my little boy began asking questions, I kept my mind open to the possibilities and seized every fun and interesting opportunity that came our way. We hunted dinosaurs, talked to penguins, and drove freight trains and tugboats all over New England. I told him stories about nuclear horses, pine demons, and dragons.We even went cruising in Chairman Mao’s Mercedes-Benz limousine. Continue reading

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A Message for Empowering Introverts

Quiet PBSusan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, which will be released in paperback on January 29, has a message to share with her readers on her own hurdles in not only finding acceptance in her introversion, but ultimately, great power. Check out the encouraging and insightful message Cain has for introverts and extroverts alike here:

I first thought about the powers and challenges of introversion some 26 years ago, when I began my freshman year at Princeton University.

From the minute I set foot on campus, I saw that college could be an extraordinary place for introverts and extroverts alike. A place where you were expected to spend your time reading and writing. A place where it was cool to talk about ideas. A place where there were so many people, each doing his or her own thing, that you could create your own brand of social life. If you were an introvert, you could find friends with common interests and enjoy their company one-on-one or in small groups; if you were an extrovert, the social possibilities were endless, just the way extroverts like them.

I was an introvert, and I thrived. Continue reading


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