The Diversity Common Reader program is a one-semester, campus-wide program that emphasizes reading as a means of social dialogue and change.
“The purpose of the DRCP is to encourage conversations about justice, equity and diversity on our campus and in our community,” said Professor Lesley Larkin, Chair of the DCRP Committee. “We believe that one of the most effective ways to bring these conversations to life is through reading and discussing books.”
Covering justice, diversity and inclusion, the program includes an interdisciplinary series of events inspired by a non-fiction book that encourages conversations about social change.
Each year, books are provided to the Lydia M. Olson Library where they are made available to students on a first-come, first-served basis.
“The library is a very convenient place for people,” said Kim Smalley, the library’s acting director. “We’re just trying to help distribute copies for [the DCPR] for convenience, really.
The book selection for this year is “We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration” by Frank Abe and Tamiko Nimura.
“We Hereby Refuse” is a new non-fiction graphic novel that follows the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II through the lives of three people who lived through it and resisted it.
“The topic is timely, given that 2022 marks the 80th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which authorized camps, as well as other anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States,” Larkin said. “The book is a moving testimony to the bravery and resilience of a community that suffered shocking injustice at the hands of their own country.”
Larkin also thinks “We Hereby Refuse” is a reminder that protecting democratic citizenship requires continued vigilance against the forces of racism, xenophobia and fascism.
“If you don’t know much, or anything, about Japanese incarceration,” Larkin said, “this is a great introduction to this important chapter in American history.”
The novel follows three characters whose dramatic and inspiring stories are rarely known: Jim Akutsu, Hiroshi Kashiwagi, and Mitsuye Endo, giving the reader a realistic glimpse into the life of incarceration.
On Thursday, March 17, co-author Tamiko Nimura will speak at NMU about the book and her family’s experience in the incarceration camps. Nimura also happens to be the niece of Hiroshi Kashiwagi, one of the main characters in the book.
“Diversity and inclusion are stated values of our university, and it’s important that we continually work to live up to those values,” Larkin said. “The DCRP is a small but meaningful way to address topics such as institutional racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and ableism – topics that affect NMU students, staff, and faculty daily. “
The DCRP creates opportunities to learn about historical and current oppression, while providing a space for people from diverse backgrounds to discuss with each other topics that may be difficult to discuss.
“We hope the conversations made possible by the DCRP can contribute to the efforts of so many at NMU to seek justice on our campus and beyond,” Larkin said.
Upcoming events are available at DCRP website, and [email protected] can be contacted for more information on planning an event or conducting a book discussion.