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Paperback Project pushes students to explore

Brinkley’s bio of Rosa Parks to launch series

Next semester, Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore plans to ask students, faculty, and staff “to change the world by reading a few books.”

The Paperback Project is a new program from Elmore’s office designed to provoke discussion and exploration about some compelling contemporary issues, among them race, technology, and global conflict. The first book, which will be discussed early next semester, is historian Douglas Brinkley’s Rosa Parks.

“It’s a world-class history that is written something like a biographical essay,” Elmore says. “He takes you not only through Rosa Parks’ life as an activist, but he also gives you a sense of the time.”

The book, which Elmore encourages BU community members to start reading during intersession, references a variety of original source materials that Elmore hopes to use for Paperback Project events, such as the controversial 1915 film Birth of a Nation, about the Ku Klux Klan, or blues recordings by artist Ma Rainey. “I’m hoping to pull together a lot of this material and say to people, ‘If you want to get a feel for the development of the racial climate in America, check out these things,’” he says.

Other books and topics being considered for the Paperback Project include Dark Age Ahead, an exploration of technology and its effect on communities, by Jane Jacobs; War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Christopher Hedges; and World On Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, by Amy Chua.

The Office of the Dean of Students is working with the Barnes & Noble at Boston University bookstore to arrange a 25 percent discount on selected books — currently, Rosa Parks can be purchased at a discount.

“I want to try to push more discussion about what it means to be a citizen and what it means to engage in civic society,” Elmore says. “And what greater way to do that than to read a book?”