One Book, One U makes all of campus a big book club

Students and professors discuss Cuban novels over Cuban food at One Book, One U’s “Marielitos, Balseros, and a Falling Star: a focus on Cuban Culture” event. Photo credit: Laura Manuela Quesada

This semester, the whole UM community is invited to curl up with Jennine Capó Crucet’s “Make Your Home Among Strangers,” the story of a first-generation Cuban-American girl facing issues of identity and heritage in a new college environment. The book was chosen as the first in the newly launched One Book, One U program.

The story takes place during the peak of one of the United States’ biggest Cuban migrant crises, when Elián González washed ashore. The novel highlights many social and political questions children of immigrants must face.

Crucet’s novel follows the protagonist, Ariel Hernandez, through Miami and New York as she goes out-of-state for college.

Professors Osamudia R. James and Chantel Acevedo organized a discussion panel to kickstart the program. Professor Laura Kohn-Wood hosted the event in her home in Pearson Residential College.

The event, “Marielitos, Balseros and a Falling Star: A focus on Cuban Culture,” encouraged discussion among students and faculty regarding the themes present in both “Make Your Home Among Strangers” and “A Falling Star,” Acevedo’s novel. “A Falling Star” also features the story of a Cuban-born American girl and the immigration process, which followed the unfolding of the Mariel boat lift.

Professor Chantel Acevedo begins the “Marielitos, Balseros, and a Falling Star: a focus on Cuban Culture” discussion Photo credit: Laura Manuela Quesada

“There’s always this play when you’re a person who doesn’t fit into what is the typical America, where you have this dual identity,” said Shane Meagher, a junior majoring in motion pictures.

Participants opened up with conversations about dual identity, ethnicity versus race, colorism, privilege, racism, community, otherness and generational differences.

“Depending on where we are or who we’re with, different parts of our identity might become strong or we feel we might have to defend communities we might criticize when we’re in them,” James said.

With several related events planned, such as “Cuban Culture Week” and “A Novel Discourse: Make Your Home Among Strangers” hosted by Sigma Tau Delta, there are plenty of ways to participate in One Book, One U.

Free copies of each novel are typically offered during these events.

Check out One Book, One U’s next event, “Blind Mouth Singing,” a play by Cuban playwright Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas and directed by Nilo Cruz, which will play at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre on campus through March 1.

For more information, follow the social media hashtag #OneBookOneU