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Northwestern's 2007 “One Book One Northwestern”

The program will kick off in September with a one-man show written and performed by a Tony Award-nominated actor about American novelist, playwright and civil rights activist James Baldwin.

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April 1, 2007 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern's 2007 “One Book One Northwestern” program will kick off in September with a one-man show written and performed by a Tony Award-nominated actor about American novelist, playwright and civil rights activist James Baldwin. Two months later, literary critic and public intellectual Henry Louis Gates Jr. will bring the initiative to a close with a finale speech about the renowned African American writer.

In between, Northwestern University will present eight weeks of programming focused around Baldwin's semi-autobiographical first novel, “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Free, public events will include readings, theatrical and musical performances, artistic installations, seminars, workshops and lectures.

“One Book One Northwestern” begins each academic year by inviting the University community and the public-at-large to focus on a single literary work. In Fall 2006, it was “Othello.” In Fall 2007, it will be Baldwin's 1953 novel, “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”

This summer, incoming freshmen from all of the University's six undergraduate schools will be mailed a copy of Baldwin's book chronicling a teenage Pentecostal preacher's conflicts with his family and faith and his struggle to come of age in New York's Harlem.

The newest Northwestern undergraduates also will be invited to participate in a month-long online summer colloquium that will lay the groundwork for fall's “one book” events.

“Faculty from across the University have been invited to incorporate the novel into their courses which means that it will be at the center of conversations of all kinds all over the campus,” says Jay Grossman, associate professor of English and director of the American studies program.

The Northwestern selection coincides with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's announcement that Baldwin's book is the Chicago Public Library's selection for its Spring 2007 “One Book, One Chicago” program. 

“The happy coincidence provides residents in the Chicago area with a nearly year-long opportunity to read, discuss, and learn from this extraordinary first novel by one of the 20th century's greatest writers,” says Grossman.

“It also provides terrific opportunities for collaboration between the University and the City of Chicago,” says Lane Fenrich, assistant dean in Northwestern's Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Fenrich will coordinate the 2007 “One Book” initiative with Grossman.