Community Book Program for 2021-22

Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together has been selected as this year’s Community Book.

Dear Members of the Oxy Community:

I am delighted to announce that Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together has been selected as this year’s Community Book. A nonfiction title published in February 2021, The Sum of Us is quickly receiving excellent reviews and national attention. McGhee, an expert in economic and social policy and contributor to NBC’s Meet the Press, currently chairs the board of Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. In The Sum of Us, she argues forcefully that racism hurts everybody and that the way forward is by building multi-racial collaborations and coalitions, resulting in a “solidarity dividend.”

This year, the Community Book Program (CBP) merged with the Core Program’s Summer Reading, and The Sum of Us will be a required text for incoming first-year students. The CBP Ad Hoc Committee (AHC) and the Core Steering Committee (CSC) jointly oversaw the selection process. The memberships of the AHC and CSC represent the multiplicity of constituents that comprise the College’s campus community. This year, we chose to concentrate on one of the four pillars of the College’s mission: Community. Through an anonymized and inclusive process, the committees solicited title suggestions from Oxy’s faculty, students, and staff.  Members also combed through lists of prize-winners, best-sellers, and the review literature and employed their own knowledge and expertise to expand the list. The gathering process was thorough and rigorous.

Using as criteria the CBP’s Mission Statement and the theme of Community, members of the AHC and CSC narrowed the list of contenders and eventually selected The Sum of Us as the recommendation. The committees are unanimous in believing that this book will serve the best interests of our incoming class and other students, advance the College’s forthcoming Equity and Justice strategic plan, further efforts to combat racism on campus, and help to instill a stronger sense of belonging within our community.

McGhee’s book raises difficult issues. We view this not so much as a challenge but as an opportunity to engage our entire Oxy community in thoughtful and meaningful dialogue on the troubled history of race relations in the United States and its unfortunate legacy today. The Sum of Us is ultimately an optimistic and uplifting book, published at a time when the United States is bitterly divided. While it might not solve this country’s problems, The Sum of Us will increase understanding of their root causes, start people thinking about them more deeply, and, most importantly, encourage and enable discussion.

Our theme this year is ”Oxy Reads Together.” All of our students will be offered the opportunity to acquire the e-version of the book at no charge. We ask that all other members of the College community read a copy in the format of their choice. We will be creating a library guide, study guides, and other educational materials to support the CBP. The program will feature various in-person and remote events throughout the academic year. We look forward to kicking things off in early August with an exciting opening event.  More information will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, let us enjoy our summer read together!

With best wishes,
Wendy Sternberg