Screen readers: Two navigational links to follow.Skip to site navigation.Skip to page content.
The University of Iowa News Services
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release


April 10, 2008

One Community, One Book selection, expansion announced

This fall, the communitywide common book program -- One Community, One Book -- coordinated by the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR), will expand to more actively include UI students, faculty and staff.

"A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier," by Ishmael Beah is the selected book for the 2008 One Community, One Book reading project.

Initiated in 2001 by Dorothy Paul and Burns Weston at the UICHR, One Community, One Book began as a countywide reading project to bring together every adult and adolescent in Johnson County to discuss the same human rights-related text. During the past two years, it has expanded to include neighboring communities and counties as well.

This year marks another significant change for One Community, One Book. With support from the UI Office of the Provost, the UICHR will provide copies of "A Long Way Gone" to all incoming undergraduates at the UI, approximately 4,300 students. Additionally, the UI Department of Rhetoric in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will integrate this year's selection into the courses taught to satisfy the general education requirement in rhetoric. Other events, both curricular and extra-curricular, will help integrate the program into the university's fall semester and expand the common book program to all UI students, including an on-campus lecture by the author. Planning is ongoing for activities to engage both students and community members.

"Expanding One Community, One Book to include all first year students is a particularly exciting example of the projects of the Student Success Team, each of which we expect to increase student involvement in high quality, educationally purposeful experiences," Tom Rocklin, UI Vice Provost, said.

"A Long Way Gone" is the story of Beah, who, at the age of 12, fled attacking rebels in his home country of Sierra Leone during that country's civil war. After fleeing, Beah became a member of the army and was forced to participate in casual mass slaughter until he was brought to a rehabilitation center sponsored by UNICEF and partnering nongovernmental organizations at the age of 15.

"We are enthusiastic about getting the campus and community literally on the same page," said Downing Thomas, director of UICHR and associate dean of International Programs. "Beah's gripping story will provide opportunities for new kinds of interaction, both in and out of the classroom, between students and faculty members, and also between students and members of the community. It is an excellent way to encourage students to reflect on citizenship and engagement, and we believe that a book on human rights issues in a global context sets exactly the right tone."

Beah's book has recently been the cause of controversy, specifically surrounding the time frame in which he says events took place. "Controversies abound in every subject and are an integral part of what learning is about," Thomas said. "The best way to deal with controversies at the university is to teach through them, not avoid them.  We have chosen 'A Long Way Gone' because it raises key questions about human rights and child labor. The book and the controversy surrounding it also allow us to consider other questions about the nature of memory and memoirs."

In addition to UICHR, past project sponsors have included the UI International Writing Program, Prairie Lights Books, the UI Libraries, Iowa City Public Library, Coralville Public Library, North Liberty Community Library, Hancher Auditorium, Hills Bank & Trust Company, Iowa Book LLC, Iowa City Human Rights Commission, Solon Public Library, UI Charter Committee on Human Rights, UI Department of English, the Iowa Writers Workshop, UI Department of History, UI International Programs and University Book Store. City High School and West High School have also participated.

UICHR is affiliated with UI International Programs, which enables UI students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity and give all university constituents access to vital international knowledge. For more information, visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the UI Office of the Provost.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Downing Thomas, UI International Programs, 319-335-1438,; Thomas Rocklin, Office of the Provost, 319-335-0148,; Kelli Andresen, UI International Programs, 319-335-2026,