April 13, 2014

Political Satire, Mystery Novel Chosen for Reading Project

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Both prospective and current students voiced their approval of the selection of Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio — a novel by Amara Lakhous that combines political satire with murder mystery — for the 2014 Cornell New Student Reading Project.

The book, which was announced as the selection for the reading project last Wednesday, will be required reading for incoming freshmen and transfer students.

Orientation leader Agustina Hobbs ’17 said she thinks Clash of Civilizations was a good choice for new students to read.

“I think the book was well chosen for the incoming class that is supposed to be the most diverse of all,” Hobbs said. “Reading this book will start giving them an idea about how diverse Cornell will be and how different cultures can work together.”

Several prospective students said they believe that the project will help them transition to Cornell more easily.

“I am very excited about reading and writing, and talking to people about [the book],” said Noah Gonzalez, an admitted student.

reading and writing, and talking to people about [the book],” said Noah Gonzalez, an admitted student.

Justin Minion, an admitted student, said that his high school featured similar reading projects, and appreciated how they give students “something in common to talk about.”

“We did a lot of stuff about cultural differences, like socioeconomic privilege, and I found that it usually led people to break out of their shells and discuss something that may not be so easy to talk about,” Minion said.

He added that he appreciates that he will have something in common with other students arriving on campus in the fall.

Hannah Smith ’17, an orientation leader, said she believes the new student reading project will help prepare admitted students for the diversity of the Cornell student body.

“It’s important to realize there are going to be culture clashes,” Smith said. “I got to engage in a conversation about diversity and different cultures from reading [last year’s new student reading project selection] When the Emperor Was Divine.”

According to a University press release, some of the novel’s themes include personal struggle, ethnic identity and marginality.

The novel “conveys the global perspectives of immigration and exile, using narrative unreliability as a way of translating preconception and prejudice into a realistic empathy for the marginal populations of the world’s major urban centers,” the release said.