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Open Books - Open Minds unites RIC community in discussion

Sophia DiNaro

Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor


Looking for a space to discuss relevant literature? Look no further than Open Books - Open Minds, RIC’s common book program. Since its creation in 2006, OBOM has invited all members of the campus community to engage deeply with a contemporary text. Each year, OBOM selects a common book about which to host a variety of discussions and related events. These events are open to all RIC students, regardless of their major. The common book is taught in RIC 100 and various classes in the English department, though all are more than welcome to obtain a free copy from Adams Library’s reference desk and participate in OBOM events.


Selecting the common book is a collaborative process. The OBOM committee, co-chaired by Assistant Professor of English and Gender & Women’s Studies Dr. Janice Okoomian and Associate Professor of English Dr. Brandon Hawk, takes book suggestions from students and faculty throughout the year that are curated into a shortlist. The committee then opens the floor to the RIC community to decide which book on the shortlist will become next year’s common book. Past common books include “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett and “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid.

Image via kristenradtke.com

This year’s common book, Kristen Radtke’s “Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness,” calls attention to a universal yet rarely discussed feeling. “Through the lenses of gender and violence, technology and art,” says OBOM’s website, “Radtke ushers us through a history of loneliness and longing, and shares what feels impossible to share.” The graphic nonfiction novel’s powerful prose and illustrations help us to reexamine our relationships with loneliness and community, a feeling greatly exacerbated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Dr. Okoomian noted that “Seek You” received more votes to be the next common book than the other two books in consideration combined. “I think loneliness is especially pertinent at Rhode Island College because so many of our students are commuters,” she says. “It can be hard for people to experience real connection with other students.”


The next OBOM event is a screening of Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis,” a 2007 animated film based on the graphic memoir of the same name. It follows Satrapi’s experience of growing up in Iran during and after the Iranian Revolution. Like “Seek You,” it explores the theme of loneliness. The screening will be held on Oct. 10 at 10 a.m. in Alger Hall 110. It is open to all students.


A future event involves RIC’s Film Studies program. Students enrolled in FILM 355 will be producing a multimedia series based on “Seek You” set to premiere on YouTube this November. Parts of the series will be posted on the program’s Instagram and TikTok accounts.


Students of all years are invited to participate in OBOM’s Annual Student Conference, which is held every spring. Students may present academic and creative projects at the conference that are related to the year’s common book. Like all other events, mentorship and the Annual Student Conference are open to students from all majors. “The conference can be a really great resume credit,” says Dr. Okoomian. “It tells employers that you have experience in public speaking and doing a project for a larger audience than a course.” Past projects have included theatrical scenes, research presentations and papers. Lunch is provided to all conference attendees, and cash prizes are awarded to those with exceptional projects.


For more information about Open Books - Open Minds, visit their website, Instagram or email obom@ric.edu.


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