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Three Books program to focus on “home”

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This summer, the three books for the 2013 Three Books reading program not only arrived at the mailbox of every incoming freshman, but were also featured on OpenEdX, an online open course platform which allows students to discuss the books before they arrive on campus.

Selected by Nicholas Jenkins, Associate Professor of English, the three books — The Art of Fielding: A Novel, by Chad Harbach, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, by Loung Ung and The Outsourced Self: What Happens When We Pay Others to Live Our Lives for Us, by Arlie Russell Hochschild — are connected by the theme of ‘home.’ The books encompass a diverse range of topics, from the memoir of a baseball star to the harrowing memory of Cambodian genocide to the intrusion of market forces into family life.

“After all, you will be leaving your home for a sustained period – and for many of you, though not all, it will be for the first time,” Jenkins wrote in the letter enclosed with the book mailing. “That transition is never a simple one.”

To facilitate student discussions and set the agenda for the discussion with the book authors on Sept. 2, the online course site, titled “2013: Three Books,” offers Office Hours live chat with faculty members to share their comments, discussion questions and reading experience.

On July 2, students engaged with Jenkins in a discussion on ‘how to read a book’. On July 19, they participated in an online live chat with Robert Urstein, dean of freshman, on The Outsourced Self: What Happens When We Pay Others to Live Our Lives for Us.

Students from all over the world, including the United States, India, Switzerland, participated in the online chat.

In addition to providing students with off-campus access to restricted materials in Stanford University Libraries, the online course site also encourages students to share background information about the three books through an onsite wiki.

On the home page, students can share with their classmates where they consider home to be at the moment through Google map.

“Each person’s ideas are expected and each person’s ideas are respected,” Jenkins wrote. “Right from the start, you should feel at home with that.”