A graphic novel on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will be the focus of this year’s OKCUReads discussion.
This is the 14th year of OKCUReads, an annual discussion program in the Fall that requires incoming students to read a book before school starts. Books are selected ahead of time by a committee of faculty members. The students are divided into discussion groups of about 15 which are led in by student and faculty discussion leaders.
This year’s selection is Josh Neufeld’s A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge, a graphic novel set in New Orleans. It centers around characters in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many of whom are actual New Orleans residents. It is the first graphic novel to be selected for OKCUReads.
Neufeld said the fact that the book is still being studied after its 2009 publication feels like an honor.
“I was gratified to see that this book is continuing to have relevance for new generations, because when the books as published in 2009, Hurricane Katrina was still very fresh in people’s minds,” he said. “Now it’s almost eight years since the book was published and more than 10 years since the storm itself. And a whole new generation of students are reading about the hurricane, and if they’re learning about it from my book, that’s very humbling to me.”
Neufeld also said the subject of Katrina is made relatable in a unique way by the graphic nature of the book.
“There are certain aspects of reading a graphic novel that sort of draw the reader in in a way that other forms maybe don’t,” he said. “It’s a combination of the empathy that is created by the comic’s form, and then the act of reading that, for something like Hurricane Katrina and all of the drama and struggle around that, can really make you connect with it and feel it.”
In addition to the student and faculty reading discussion sessions, there will also be a discussion with Neufeld himself, which incoming students are also required to attend.
Dr. Terry Phelps, English professon and discussion leader, said OKCUReads is a good way for students to develop more awareness and empathy for others in different situations.
“One of the things you hope happens in a university is that it makes students more aware, and develop more empathy towards others and towards their situations,” Phelps said. “The better I understand other people and their circumstances, the more I’m able to think about my audience and make appropriate decisions.”
Jordan Tarter, English junior, said it’s important to come into college with some new perspective and understanding of diversity.
“Books can open our minds to different worlds and ways of thinking, and this is especially important when it comes to understanding different religions and cultures and how to appreciate our diversity,” said English junior Jordan Tarter. “I think that OKCUReads sets up a great way for students to come into their first year of college with something important we could all discuss together.”
The student and faculty-led discussions will be from 12-1:15 p.m. Aug. 17 in Walker Center. The discussion with Neufeld will be at 7 p.m. the same day in Petree Recital Hall in Kirkpatrick Fine Arts Center.