Oxy Community Book Program Continues with Heather McGhee

Heather McGee

Heather McGhee, New York Times bestselling author of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, will join President Elam on August 2 at 2 p.m. for a virtual conversation open to all students, faculty, staff, alumni and families.

Through thoughtful selection of book titles as well as innovative and inspiring programs, the Community Book Program (CBP) provides the entire Occidental community with an intellectually engaging and rewarding experience. Promoting the mission of the College by empowering students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents to experience the joy of reading and learning together, the Community Book Program launched in August 2020. 

Published in February of this year to rave reviews, The Sum of Us has reached Number 2 on The New York Times hardcover nonfiction list. In the book, McGhee argues that racism hurts everyone and that the way forward is by building multi-racial coalitions and collaborations, resulting in a “solidarity dividend.” McGhee is an expert in economic and social policy and she is the former president of the inequality-focused think tank Demos. McGhee has drafted legislation, testified before Congress and contributed regularly to news shows such as NBC’s Meet the Press. She currently chairs the board of Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. McGhee holds a B.A. in American studies from Yale University and a J.D. from the UC Berkeley School of Law.

“Heather McGhee has written a powerful and compelling book that will engage the Oxy community in meaningful conversations,” says Kevin Mulroy, College librarian and co-chair of the Community Book Program Committee. “It is ultimately an optimistic and uplifting work, published at a time when the U.S. 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.”

This year marks the merging of the Community Book Program with the first-year Summer Reading Program, allowing it to further current students’ academic success and excellence while supporting lifelong learning for all community participants.

“The Core Program is excited to partner with the Community Book Program to expand the reach of both initiatives,” says Ron Buckmire, professor of mathematics, associate dean for curricular affairs and director of the Core Program. “We see this merger as an excellent way to incorporate first-year students into the intellectual life of the College.” 

The first community book selection was Red at the Bone: A Novel by Jacqueline Woodson, chosen by President Elam. This year’s community book was selected by the Community Book Program Committee and CORE Steering Committee. Over the spring semester, the committees collected suggestions from Oxy students, faculty and staff, asking for books that touched on the theme of community—one of the four pillars of the Oxy mission. The committee is made up of faculty, staff and a current student that read and discussed all community submissions before choosing The Sum of Us

Registration for this virtual event is required, and the event is open to all community members.

Register now