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Go Big Read goes virtual  

September 1, 2020 By Käri Knutson

Go Big Read’s mission has always been to bring the campus community together through a shared reading experience. A pandemic doesn’t change that, although it does alter the logistics.

Freshmen will still receive a copy of “Parkland: Birth of a Movement,” this year’s Go Big Read selection, but instead of picking it up at convocation, the book will be delivered to their residence hall, available by pick-up at participating campus libraries, or sent electronically for those studying at a distance. A virtual asynchronous event featuring author Dave Cullen and Parkland student/March for Our Lives representative Jaclyn Corin is planned for early October.

“Parkland” is the story of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida which took the lives of 17 people. In his book, Cullen refuses to name the killer and instead focuses on the response by students. After the shooting, Parkland students organized the largest single-day protest against gun violence in history. March for Our Lives now has hundreds of chapters across the country, all with students leading the charge for change. The organization has been active in encouraging young people to vote and work with elected officials and communities to reduce gun violence.

This year, a Wisconsin Experience course connected to the book has been added to the timetable offerings. “Purposeful Action: Parkland, Protest, and You,” taught by Kathleen Bartzen Culver, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and director of the Center for Journalism Ethics. Using the book as a jumping off point, the course will explore the possibilities and challenges of taking social and political action in the wake of tragedy and crisis.

“One of the goals of Go Big Read is to choose books that generate conversations about challenging and timely topics,” said Chancellor Rebecca Blank in April when the book was announced. “At this moment in time, in the midst of a health pandemic, it’s good to see how tragic events in the past have inspired action and change among those who live through them.”

Two previous Go Big Read books have recently been in the news.

In June, the movie version of Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy,” the 2015-16 selection, was made available for free after the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

In July, Amazon Prime released “Radioactive,” adapted from Lauren Redniss’ “Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout.” The book was the 2012-2013 Go Big Read selection.

Previous Go Big Read books also include “The Poison Squad” by Deborah Blum, “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” by Dan Egan, “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance, “Evicted”by Matthew Desmond, “I Am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai and “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki.

The Go Big Read Program began in 2009 and is sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor. For more information, visit