Incoming freshmen at Augustana College will start their classwork before arriving on campus in August. That's because of an annual program called "Augie Reads," which requires new students to study a selected book before classes begin.
The chair of the Augie Reads committee, Katie Hanson, says this year's book is J.D. Vance's Hillybilly Elegy, a memoir about his childhood in economically depressed Middletown, Ohio with abusive and addicted parents.
"People who like it really look at it as this compassionate description of the underclass and it helps us to really understand the working poor. The critics just complain that he's basically so unaware of racism and white privilege, so I think it's really going to engender some great conversations, because there's no right answer."
Hanson says the program started nearly 20 years ago and has featured such authors as James Baldwin, Ray Bradbury, and Machiavelli.
"One of the great threads of it is that it's this common experience among all the first year students. So whether they love it, they all love it together, or whether they hate it, they have something in common, but they start with something in common."
Beginning May 1 faculty will start to plan the curriculum for first year classes incorporating Vance's book.