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Summer 2016 reading for first-year students

Each year at Augustana, all incoming first-year students read a common book during the summer before their arrival on campus as an initiation into the college's intellectual community. The faculty who teach "First-Year Inquiry (FYI)101: Rhetoric and the Liberal Arts" have selected James Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time" as the 2016 Augie Reads text.

Writing your essay

Reading guide

Library links and resources

The Augie Reads book is integrated into the first-year academic program. All fall term FYI and first-year honors classes will discuss the book and collect the required summer writing assignment about the book as part of their common curriculum during the first few weeks of each course.

There also will be sessions related to issues in the book on Fall Symposium Day. Symposium Day is a day when no classes are scheduled and the entire campus instead participates in workshops, discussions, and community events that all focus on one theme. 

"The Fire Next Time" was published in 1962, but the themes are still relevant. The book is really two essays. The first essay is a letter, written by Baldwin to his 14-year-old nephew, about integration and acceptance and how slowly real change is happening. The second essay is more autobiographical, explaining how Baldwin had a religious crisis at age 14, and how that caused him to re-see his world.

It is partly a coming of age story about Baldwin deciding how to live as a black man in white America. It is partly a coming of age story about America in a time of racial turmoil between black and white Americans. We will have plenty to think and write and talk about after reading this book.

You can buy the novel when you come to campus for Orientation & Registration in the summer. You'll receive a reading guide and a short writing assignment during Orientation & Registration. You will read the book over the summer and bring the book and your completed paper to campus in the fall.

As you are reading and writing, if you find yourself interested in learning more about the Civil Rights Movement, the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, or other related topics mentioned in the book, see the online resources available to you through the Thomas Tredway Library.

During Welcome Week in the fall, you will attend a faculty panel discussion about the book, and participate in a discussion with your FYI-101 classmates, led by your FYI-101 professor. You will turn in a paper copy of your summer writing assignment to your professor on the first day of your FYI-101 or honors class.

The paper will be used as part of writing instruction in the first few weeks of class, so it is your first college homework assignment. Please be sure to save the paper in a digital format as well, because you will be asked to submit a digital copy once you get on campus.

This book may have been published in 1962, but many of the themes and ideas merit further consideration today. Your FYI-101 and honors professors look forward to discussing and analyzing it with you, and the rest of the class of 2020.

If you have any questions, email Augie Reads chair Katie Hanson.