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2014 Freshman Reading Assignment

2014 Freshman Reading Assignment - Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by husband-wife team Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Dear Members of the Class of 2018:

Congratulations on your decision to enroll at Millsaps College. I look forward to welcoming you to campus in August as you begin your undergraduate experience.

Millsaps College expects all incoming students to share a reading and writing experience prior to their campus matriculation. The summer reading assignment has several purposes which include promoting a context for campus-wide discussion, fostering dialogue about issues of mutual concern and interest, and creating an opportunity for members of the freshman class to share a common intellectual experience before their arrival on campus.  Once on campus, you will be able to participate in a variety of conversations related to the book.

This year's book is Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. In the book, Kristof and WuDunn present a series of case studies of women and women's rights initiatives. Their goal is to increase awareness in the West of the issues that plague women and keep them—and, by extension, humanity—from achieving their potential. The authors also offer suggestions for solutions and actions to be taken, even if their readers are far from the geographic locations of these cases. We anticipate a rich discussion of this book on our campus this year.

As part of the summer reading and writing program, you should undertake the following assignment after reading Half the Sky. In a short (three to four page) essay, respond to one of the following writing prompts.

1. In her 2009 review of the book for The Nation, Katha Pollitt remarks that "Half the Sky makes such a strong case for gender justice, it demolishes so successfully the unthinking moral relativism that shrugs at atrocities, and it fills the reader's heart with so much sympathy and indignation that its modest prescriptions come as quite a letdown." What bolder solution(s) might you imagine for one of the case studies in the book?

2. How would you characterize or define Kristof and WuDunn's vision of empowerment? Use examples from the text to develop your definition/characterization.

3. While Kristof and WuDunn present simple anecdotes to introduce us to important issues, they also demonstrate the complexities underlying these seemingly simple situations. Select one such example from the book and reflect on the issue's root causes. What interventions do you imagine would be helpful in addressing the issue?

Essays should be approximately three to four pages in length and should be submitted to the Writing Program office by Monday, August 4. You may also submit your essay electronically via email to voices@millsaps.edu or mail it to: Writing Program, c/o Anita DeRouen, Millsaps College, 1701 N. State Street, Jackson, MS 39210.

These essays will be included in the material given to each new student's advisor and Freshman Seminar Instructor; you will discuss and revise this essay during the first two weeks of your Freshman Seminar course, so make sure that you bring your copy of the book to campus. After the revision exercise, you'll be invited to submit your essay for the Community Voices contest; contest finalists will be invited to share their essays at a special campus Forum during the Fall term and the writer of the best essay will receive a prize. If you have any questions, please feel free to call the Writing Program Office (691-974-1326).

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide can be purchased online. If purchasing the book or finding one at a local library presents a problem, please contact the Writing Program as soon as possible.

Explore the book and information about the Half the Sky project on their website.

We trust you will find reading and writing about Half the Sky an intellectually interesting and meaningful experience. We look forward to welcoming you into our campus community soon.

Yours sincerely,

Keith Dunn
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Dean of the College