2009 Summer Reading Assignment
WHY and HOW did the College choose In the Hot Zone, by Kevin Sites?
A group of staff, faculty, and students served as the selection committee for the Common Summer Reading of 2009. Our choice, In the Hot Zone, by Kevin Sites, presents a highly-controversial look at one man's journey through several war zones and conflict areas around the globe. Despite its tone and tenor, the group found the book to have such merit that we recommend it to the entire community. Indeed, the student members of the group were undeniably enthusiastic about the prospect of assigning this book. Sites' journey to the 20 war zones provides a clear and compelling view of war, its combatants, and its collateral casualties. We believe that it is important that our students understand the nature of that which pervades the lives of so many citizens of the world. Our student readers found that the book motivated them for change, and while they were shocked by the explicit descriptions of the brutality of war, they found Sites's descriptions haunting and memorable. It is our hope that the book's depictions of war will make students recognize that they need to know about what is going on in the world as the world is, and not how they want it to be.
The book is arranged in small chapters with multiple sections, and it is accompanied by Sites' startling DVD documentary that includes footage from some of the war zones about which he writes. The book's format and its accompanying visual material is thus an expansion of the sound bites to which many readers are now accustomed. At the same time, the book is not a collection of disconnected pieces of information. There is a logical order to the dispatches, and each brings up and/or further addresses issues that Sites carries throughout his book. The sequence of events are easy to follow, and information about politics, history, and culture is blended into the narrative of Sites' journey. While accessible, there is a lot of information in the background narrative that will challenge you, and the book and its concomitant issues will lend itself to year-long common discussions and experiences. Part of the learning process includes critical dialogue and debate in carefully-reasoned academic and endorsing environments.
HOW will we use In the Hot Zone this coming year?
You will begin your discussion of the book during Orientation, during which time you, your classmates, your student ALPHAs, and your First-Year Seminar professor will examine the themes and content of the book. You are expected to have completed the book by your arrival on campus in August. Then, members of the community will speak to you at an evening lecture scheduled for August 25th. The panelists at this event (termed BookRevue) are not yet selected, but they will probably include both a journalist and a veteran US Army Officer. Over the course of the fall semester, you will be invited to join a roundtable dinner discussion that will include members of the staff, faculty, and the Salisbury community as they discuss the book (and its larger themes of global issues) in a more intimate setting.
This book will also be read by several hundred people in the Rowan-Salisbury community, as it is one part of the annual Rowan Reading Challenge. During the challenge, Salisbury residents from all walks of life — farmers, merchants, doctors, teachers, retirees, attorneys, students — read several books and hear talks about each in a large public venue. This year's Reading Challenge event will be in October, and interested Catawba students may attend. Because so many members of the College and local community will be reading this book you will have many opportunities on campus (in class, during extra curriculars) and off (in casual conversation with members of the community) to see multiple perspectives on the issues that Sites's work brings to us.