I am writing to express my shock and dismay at the appalling treatment of University of Nebraska-Lincoln English professor Jennine Capó Crucet by some students at Georgia Southern University (“Students burn novel about race,” Oct. 12).
I’ve taught her coming-of-age novel, "Make Your Home Among Strangers," many times when I was a professor of English at UNL, and my students loved it.
At the center of this book the GSU students burned in public is a relatable 18-year-old Cuban-American who is the first in her family to go to college. She navigates two vastly different worlds as she transitions from Miami to a prestigious university in the northeast during her first tumultuous year. The characters are multi-dimensional and treated with great humanity by the author. No one is stereotyped.
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My students judged it to be an authentic representation of how confusing and life-changing a college campus often is during the first year away from home, especially for first-generation students who contend with issues of invisibility, economic hardship, minority status, racism and self-doubt.
To see such a beautiful and ground-breaking novel defaced on a university campus should be deeply alarming to all of us who care about art, literature and education. Burning an invited professor’s well-received debut novel and posting it on social media sends a chilling message of contempt to the entire campus community, as well as to the author herself.
It’s the opposite of free speech and what a university education is supposed to do: open our eyes and ears to other people’s worlds and provide ways for us to dialogue about them respectfully. I hope the administrators at GSU admonish these students for their unacceptable threatening behavior to Capó Crucet and their violation of humanist values at the heart of higher education.
Maureen Honey, Lincoln