All-Community Read Makes Us a "Stronger School"

It's been called "haunting," "devastating," and an "exceptional platform" for discussion. Brooks School's English Department also recently declared Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go "summer reading" — for everyone at Brooks School.

A committee chose the 2006 sci-fi thriller as the subject of Brooks' third annual All-Community Read program in May. And just as the initiative's title suggests, Brooks alumni, parents and friends are all invited to read Never Let Me Go along with our students, faculty and staff.


Never Let Me Go author Kazuo Ishiguro won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1989 for The Remains of the Day.

"We are so excited to be working with this novel," said English Department Chair Dean Charpentier P'20. "We hope that all of you enjoy it as well! Choosing a common book for over 400 people presents a particular set of challenges, but we hope that the book will generate conversation upon our return in September."

Set in a fictitious English boarding school, Never Let Me Go "blurs boundaries between genres, as great contemporary literature does," said the English teacher. "The novel has been called a work of science fiction, a love story, a coming of age story, a gothic tale, and a mystery, among others. While not overtly dystopian, it certainly plays to those themes and appeals to that current exciting trend."

But it wasn't just the work's relevant themes that appealed to Charpentier and the program committee. "It is our belief that we can all find something in it with which we can connect," he explained. Take the thought-provoking questions he asked readers to mull over in his announcement about the pick:

  • What are the ethical questions behind bio-medical research and how we use scientific knowledge?
  • How do young people growing up in a boarding school deal with the issues of relationships?
  • What is the nature of art, poetry and beauty?
  • What is love?
  • What is memory, and how do we tell and understand the stories of our lives?
  • And ultimately, what does it mean to be human?

Obviously there is no simple answer to any of the inquiries, which is exactly the point.

Since the All-Community Read program began in 2015 with Sonia Nazario's Enrique's Journey (Ernest Cline's Ready Player One followed in 2016), Brooks has challenged everyone in our community to read, consider, and discuss the selected books together from as many viewpoints as they can — in English class as well as in chemistry or in art. The hope, in so doing, is that the shared experience will give people holding disparate views, from different walks of life, an opportunity to broaden each other's understanding of the books and perhaps of themselves.

Visit Summer Reading 2017 to check out all of the summer reading requirements at Brooks.

Faculty will integrate the novel into their curriculum starting at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. School-wide activities furthering students' examination of Never Let Me Go will include presentations on the book or its themes; a book club series; a community collaboration with visiting artist Peter Bruun in November; and a film festival in the spring using the 2010 film adaptation of the novel (starring Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, and Carey Mulligan) as a springboard.

See the Lehman Art Center page for the 2017-2018 exhibit schedule, including visiting and faculty artists.

"English classes will jump right into writing about and discussing the book as soon as they arrive on campus," Charpentier explained. "We will also very quickly begin to connect individuals with Peter Bruun so that community members' writing might possibly become a part of his exhibit [in the Lehman Art Center in December]."

Book clubs will be less structured. "We will organize informal reading groups so that there are different forums for discussion if people are interested," he said. "And I imagine there will be informal discussions that pop up pretty quickly, even if there is disagreement about whether we liked the book. That's where the value is, in my mind, in debate and disagreement."

The All-Community Read is worthwhile for many reasons, in fact. "The benefit of an all school experience like this is not necessarily in dissecting the piece itself, though there is value in that, but in the conversations this novel may generate," Charpentier elaborated. "It's asking, 'How does it make us think about our lives, both individually and collectively?' Never Let Me Go is about memory and telling our stories, and about being human. Discussing those things, both formally and informally, can only make us a better and stronger community."

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