Summer Reading | FYS

Over the summer, each First-Year Seminar student is asked to read a text chosen by the FYS faculty the previous spring. We will mail the books to students free of charge; there is no need to purchase the book on your own. They are also yours to keep! The books are sent through the mail over the summer, so be on the lookout for a package from Pacific University!

While the books vary greatly in theme, genre and style from year to year, they all aim to engage students with literature that challenges their world views and introduces them to college level reading and ideas.

Fall 2021 Common Read

This year’s summer text is Michelle Kuo’s Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship, a memoir that “contends with the questions of what it is we owe each other and how starkly economic and racial inequality determine our life outcomes.”  Kuo’s book speaks to our country’s past while looking to its future through education.  We are excited by the conversations to be had on campus surrounding this book’s themes on education and social justice!

Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo

reading with patrickMichelle Kuo, at age twenty two, arrives in the Mississippi Delta town of Helena, Arkansas in 2004. Kuo quickly realizes that her new home, the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, is still poor, still segregated and still in need of dramatic change. Helena is where she meets Patrick, inquisitive and quiet, with a poor attendance record. With Kuo’s attention, Patrick’s reading and writing flourish and he wins a school-wide award for “Most Improved.” When Kuo leaves Helena to pursue a law degree, she suspects herself of having taken the easier route. Three years later, Kuo’s attention receives the news that Patrick is in prison for murder. Kuo puts her life on hold and moves back to the Delta. In the visiting room of the Phillips County Jail, she and Patrick spend seven months poring over classic novels, poems, and historical narrative by Frederick Douglass, C.S. Lewis, Marilynne Robinson, James Baldwin, W.S. Merwin and more. Patrick learns how to be a serious reader and a fluent writer, and in doing so, discovers new worlds both inside and outside of himself. In her time reading with Patrick, Kuo is herself transformed as she contends with the questions of what it is we owe each other and how starkly economic and racial inequality determine our life outcomes. What social transformation is necessary to change a life? And what kind of connection can two people make when there exists such dramatic inequality between them? At its heart Reading with Patrick is a meditation on how education changes the experience of incarceration and the limits of that change. It tells a history of the American South, from the legacy of slavery to the effects of prison. And it is a story of the miraculous effect of the written word and the consolation it provides.