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by Jenny Price

Volunteers distribute copies of this year’s Go Big Read selection, “I Am Malala,” following the Chancellor’s Convocation in August. For the 2015-16 year, the selection committee is seeking a book that addresses inequality in America.  Photo: Bryce Richter
Volunteers distribute copies of this year’s Go Big Read selection, “I Am Malala,” following the Chancellor’s Convocation in August. For the 2015-16 year, the selection committee is seeking a book that addresses inequality in America.
Photo: Bryce Richter

America is often billed as a land of opportunity, but for many people there are barriers to accessing education, getting out of poverty, seeking justice and more.

For the 2015-16 year, the selection committee for Go Big Read, UW-Madison’s common-reading program, is seeking a book that addresses this theme of inequality in America. Both fiction and nonfiction titles are encouraged for submission by students, faculty, staff and members of the community.

The writer and scholar bell hooks, who earned a degree from the UW in 1976, writes, “All too often we think of community in terms of being with folks like ourselves: the same class, same race, same ethnicity, same social standing and the like. … I think we need to be wary: we need to work against the danger of evoking something that we don’t challenge ourselves to actually practice.”

The call for book titles comes as the larger public debate among political and community leaders about growing inequality in the United States has intensified. UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank says recent grand jury verdicts in Ferguson, Missouri, and in Staten Island, New York, have also raised questions and concerns among many in the university community about ongoing racial biases, as they have nationwide. Last month, hundreds of UW students and community members took part in a campus demonstration to voice their outrage over those grand jury decisions. Many more added their voices to this important discussion during campus forums.

“The Go Big Read program will provide a communitywide opportunity to further discuss the ways in which unequal opportunities affect our society and impact our relationships with one another,” Blank says.

The deadline to submit a title for consideration is Jan. 30. The selection committee is also seeking input from students, faculty and community experts. The committee will spend a month reading and discussing books before making a recommendation to the chancellor, who will make the final selection.

Nominated books should offer one or more of the following: promote enjoyment of reading by being readable, relevant and engaging; incorporate sufficient depth and scope to promote sustained discussion of different points of view; appeal to individuals from a variety of backgrounds; and have cross-disciplinary flexibility that can tie into a variety of campus activities and programming.

This year’s Go Big Read book is “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban,” written by the 17-year-old Pakistani activist who won the Nobel Peace Prize. Previous books include “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki and “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan.

To suggest a book, visit Go Big Read’s website.