Like many universities, WestConn directs first-year students to read a specific book — a common read — for discussion when they start the fall semester. Unlike most universities, WestConn joined with the local municipal library to create an event for readers throughout the region.
“One Book, One Community” brought authors, celebrations, movies and book discussions to WestConn and other venues.
The partnership with the Danbury Public Library presented “The Namesake” to the community. Highlights included lectures by author Jhumpa Lahiri and by Mira Nair, who directed the film based on the book.
“Working with the library, as well as with Indian cultural groups in the community, allowed us to expose students to a greater experience than they would have if we had done this project alone,” said Dr. Linda Rinker, provost and academic vice president. “We are proud of the community where we live and work, and this project brought together the best that the university and Danbury have to offer.”
Building on the novel’s story about a family with roots in India, “One Book, One Community” presented a traditional Diwali to celebrate the Hindu new year, a bus trip to an Indian restaurant in New York, a lecture on Indian spices, and showings of the films “The Namesake, “Monsoon Wedding” and “Mississippi Masala.”
During her appearance, Lahiri discussed the audacity of writers and her own reluctance to describe herself as an artist.
“There is a belief in yourself, and a belief that your observations are unique, that is so presumptuous,” Lahiri said. At the same time, she added, the act of writing is not accidental: “I think creativity is an extremely active role. It’s not passive.”
For Lahiri, her Indian heritage has driven her creativity.
“The world is not just one place,” she said. “It is not just one way. The longing for place, for something not present, is something I’ve known from my first knowledge.”