By Cammie Jones-Dutchess, ’21
St. Bonaventure University has chosen “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen” by Jose Antonio Vargas as its All Bonaventure Reads (ABR) book for 2019-2020.
“Dear America” tells the story of Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas and his journey through life as an undocumented immigrant in the United States. With passion and ambition, Vargas expresses what it means to be an illegal citizen in a time where fear for being deported is at its highest.
The book also allows readers to stand in Vargas’ shoes and understand life’s biggest difficulties when becoming a legal citizen is no longer an option.
“I learned a lot about U.S. immigration policies from the book,” said Dr. Carol Fischer, a professor emerita of accounting and an All Bonaventure Reads committee member. “I hope the book will help our freshmen to think about these issues and further develop their empathy for others.”
“Dear America” is also meant to relate to the lives of the incoming Class of 2023.
“Many of SBU’s incoming freshmen are leaving home for the first time. Consider how it feels to have somewhere to go during breaks and for the holidays. How would you feel if you didn’t have that luxury? Or if you were told that the only home you have ever known is not truly yours?” said Karalyn Anastasia, the university’s coordinator for student accounts.
As part of the All Bonaventure Reads initiative, first-year students at St. Bonaventure will receive a copy of “Dear America” during summer Orientation and be asked to read the book and write an essay reflecting on it as their first college assignment. Students will be engaged in conversations about the book’s themes in their first-year seminar course, SBU 101, and various campuswide events during the upcoming academic year.
“I believe this book could teach freshmen to not take everyday blessings for granted, and to truly appreciate what you have,” said Anastasia.
Vargas, who was born in the Philippines, says his memoir is “not a book about the politics of immigration. This book is about homelessness, not in a traditional sense, but in the unsettled, unmoored psychological state that undocumented immigrants like myself find ourselves in.”
An Emmy-nominated filmmaker and Tony-nominated producer, Vargas is a 2004 graduate of San Francisco State University. An elementary school named after him will open in his hometown of Mountain View, California, this fall.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #1 regional university value in New York and #2 in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition.
St. Bonaventure has chosen the nonfiction book “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson as its common read for 2015-2016. This All Bonaventure Reads selection explores the inequity embedded in the U.S. criminal justice system.
“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” was released in October and focuses mainly on the work of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., a legal practice Stevenson founded as a young lawyer that is dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need.
One of Stevenson’s first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. It transformed the lawyer’s understanding of mercy and justice forever and illustrates numerous ongoing challenges in work advocating for social justice.
About the author
7 p.m. | Monday, Oct. 26
Address by: Anthony Ray Hinton (above, right), an exonerated death row inmate, and Charlotte Morrison, senior attorney with the Equal Justice Initiative
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