Writing Program

Common Reading Experience, 2013-2014

The Common Reading Experience invites Fort Lewis students, faculty, staff and community members to share a common intellectual experience by reading one book.

First-year students are given the book at orientation. Classes that incorporate the Common Reading Experience book explore themes from the text, while numerous co-curricular events are scheduled throughout the fall. Discussion groups, lectures, films and other activities tied to the book's themes help foster a community of readers.

For more information, click here for Reed Library's CRE website.

The 2013-2014 Common Reading Experience selection is Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen.

Full Body Burden-Common Reading ExperienceFull Body Burden is a haunting work of narrative nonfiction about a young woman, Kristen Iversen, growing up in a small Colorado town close to Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant once designated "the most contaminated site in America." It's the story of a childhood and adolescence in the shadow of the Cold War, in a landscape at once startlingly beautiful and--unknown to those who lived there--tainted with invisible yet deadly particles of plutonium.

It's also a book about the destructive power of secrets--both family and government. Her father's hidden liquor bottles, the strange cancers in children in the neighborhood, the truth about what was made at Rocky Flats (cleaning supplies, her mother guessed)--best not to inquire too deeply into any of it. ...

As this memoir unfolds, it reveals itself as a brilliant work of investigative journalism--a detailed and shocking account of the government's sustained attempt to conceal the effects of the toxic and radioactive waste released by Rocky Flats, and of local residents' vain attempts to seek justice in court. Here, too, are vivid portraits of former Rocky Flats workers--from the healthy, who regard their work at the plant with pride and patriotism, to the ill or dying, who battle for compensation for cancers they got on the job (excerpt from Amazon's review of Full Body Burden).

Previous CRE selections include:

  • The Heart and the Fist (2012-2013)
  • Outcasts United (2011-2012)
  • Enrique's Journey (2010-2011)
  • The Beast in the Garden (2009-2010)
  • Three Cups of Tea (2008-2009)
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains (2007-2008)
  • Folding Paper Cranes (2006-2007)

Feel free to modify the following syllabus language explaining the Common Reading Experience to students for use in your own classes:

Acknowledgement of Common Reading Experience Participation

This semester we will be participating in Fort Lewis College’s annual Common Reading Experience (CRE).  The CRE revolves around a book chosen by the college’s Reading Board and given to each freshman. We will read the book in class and we will participate in several activities related to the ideas in the book.  We will also read texts that are connected to the idea in the book. As we discuss and write about the ideas in the text and in our activities, you will begin to see connections between our class and your other courses and between your academic and your public lives. I believe this shared experience will enrich your liberal arts education by creating opportunities to explore and become involved in ideas relevant to contemporary society.

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