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Wednesday, October 4, 2023
October 4 , 2023

One Book, One U selection examines Miami through a different lens

UM’s One Book, One U program aims to amplify diverse voices and educate the UM community on the history and future of Miami.
UM’s One Book, One U program aims to amplify diverse voices and educate the UM community on the history and future of Miami. Photo credit: Gianna Guirgis

Miami is full of diverse voices and stories that deserve to be told. UM’s One Book, One U program aims to amplify these voices and educate the UM community on the history and future of Miami.

Through UM Libraries, the annual program aims to promote discussions of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) by highlighting one book with these themes throughout the school year. A selection committee composed of professors chooses the book through a process of nominations and meetings.

“This year, the selection committee was able to quickly narrow down our choice to ‘If I Survive You’ because of the many themes in this book that we thought would resonate with the UM community across multiple disciplines,” said Dr. Miriam Lipsky, director of the Platform for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

Author Jonathan Escoffery’s book “If I Survive You” features interrelated short stories that depict the life of a Jamaican family in South Florida.

“Based in southern Miami-Dade county and from the perspective of a young Jamaican-American man, ‘If I Survive You’ offers a unique view of our city, each story approaching the city from different angles,” said Chantel Acevedo, co-founder of One Book, One U and creative writing professor in the UM Department of English.

For students unfamiliar with Miami’s rich culture and mixture of people from various diasporas, Escoffery’s book may be an eye-opening read.

“My hope is that in reading ‘If I Survive You,’ our UM community will learn about a part of Miami that isn’t often reflected in literature, but is so necessary to the vitality of our city,” Acevedo said.

A prolific writer, Acevedo has won the Latino International Book Award for her book “Love and Ghost Letters.” She created One Book, One U along with law professor Osamudia James after receiving the “A Seed for Success” (SEEDS) grant to start a common reading program, which has gone through several iterations since its creation.

“When One Book, One U was initially developed, the idea was to have the UM community engage with works of fiction,” Acevedo said. “Since then, the program evolved to include nonfiction in order to better reflect the many genres of interest on campus. This year marks a return to fiction.”

The book’s stories encourage a deeper understanding of Miami and its smaller communities, underlining the program’s goals to keep culture alive through reading.

“I think the book will engender rich conversations regarding issues of race and equity, the environment and climate change, immigration, gender and sexuality,” Acevedo said.

The program challenges recently-enacted Florida legislation that prohibits public colleges from using federal or state funding on DEI programs. As a private institution, UM is one of few Florida schools to retain its DEI initiatives.

“Florida, in recent months, has put the silencing of these issues front and center nationally, and it behooves us as a university community to make sure that scholars, researchers and creators are not silenced and to create spaces where these conversations can happen freely,” Acevedo said.

One Book, One U also hosts programming throughout the academic year in collaboration with campus partners to engage students and highlight issues related to its chosen book.

“Events will be posted on the One Book, One U website as they are scheduled,” Lipsky said.

Until then, students can grab their free copy of “If I Survive You” from the Richter Library Access Services desk while supplies last.

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