By Aria Walfrand
Part of the requirements for all first years entering Union is a summer reading assignment, which is typically discussed during the orientation program in groups. This year, the book of choice for Union’s incoming class of 2014 was “The Color of Water” by James McBride. This book is described as a “black man’s tribute to his white mother.” The College was fortunate enough to bring Mr. McBride himself to campus to speak to the students and engage in a Q&A session regarding the book.
Ariel Blum ‘13, an Orientation Advisor, really enjoyed Mr. McBride’s speech and thought it to be a good way to connect the students closer to their summer assignment. “I thought that it was very exciting that Union was able to have the author come to speak. This year I think the freshmen definitely had a stronger connection to the book than in previous years because they read the story and were able to hear ‘behind the scenes’ information from James McBride himself. This approach gave the students a greater appreciation for the memoir,” she states.
Some students even got the opportunity to meet and have dinner with Mr. McBride himself. One student who went, Cybil Tribie ‘11, said, “Meeting the author of “The Color of Water,” James McBride, gives a realistic perspective to a man so many of us can relate to; a person searching for self-identity throughout his life. ”
Although it may not seem that everyone can relate to the surface story that Mr. McBride wrote about in The Color of Water, the emotions and struggles that he went through are things that everyone feels.
Tribie describes this when she notes “With the knowledge that he has gained throughout his life, his speech for the first year students was motivating because he emphasized to them that they learn to forge their own paths, to take advantage of the situation they are in, and to learn to fail and pick themselves up after they do so.”
Haritha Sishtla ‘11, an Orientation Advisor, agrees that it was important for the first years to gain a connection with the author of the book they read. “I think after reading the book, it was great for the first-years to meet the author face-to-face and hear more about his experiences described in the book they read.”