You SHOULD…Read: Ready, Player One


“Read like a curious teenager; read for delight.  Read Ready, Player One and everything else.


I mean here the embrace of reading, not because a novel or work of non-fiction is “essential,” but because it on some or all levels brings us joy to be reading it.  And by that I don’t mean that it’s necessarily a cheery read (Game of Thrones is not a feel-good series although it feels good to read it).  I’m an English PhD (read cultural critic), so I get that discomfort (formal, personal) is valuable, but I’ve come to see that for me the great power of reading is that, once we give ourselves over to it completely, we read and read and read and read and the sum of it all matters, even if a given book is a formulaic best seller (and those often shed light on “now” in unexpected ways). So mix it up: read The Girl on the Train and all of Louise Penny, and the Wayward Pines trilogy, and Wolf Hall, and Ender’s Game, and everything by David Eggers, David Mitchell, Jonathan Franzen, Neal Stephenson, Gaiman, LeGuin, McCaffrey, Murakami and Neil de Grasse Tyson.  And everything else.”


-Susanna Cowan, PhD

Director, Summer & Winter Programs
University of Connecticut



You Should…WALK: Around Alexander Calder’s Stegosaurus

“You Should…




Around Alexander Calder’s Stegosaurus (1973) in downtown Hartford.


Alexander Calder (1898-1976) is best known for his mobiles, hanging sculptures comprised of abstract metal shapes that dance on currents of air. Stabiles such as Stegosaurus do the opposite: the sculpture stays put and it is the spectator who moves around the artwork. Stegosaurus is a good example of the large-scale, outdoor sculpture that became the primary focus of Calder’s work during the last two decades of the artist’s life. The 50-foot tall, painted steel sculpture is comprised of 45 steel plates bolted together to form an abstract, arced structure. The sculpture seems to encourage spectators to walk around and even underneath it by refusing to present a static, single image for contemplation. Instead our perception of it constantly changes. It demands to be experienced first-hand.


The sculpture’s five triangular fins invite comparisons with the Jurassic period dinosaur Calder referenced in the title, although Stegosaurus was commissioned in honor of Alfred E. Burr, a publisher of the Hartford Times. It stands in Burr Mall, between Hartford City Hall and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Stegosaurus isn’t the only example of post-war public sculpture worth exploring in downtown Hartford. Its neighbors include Stone Field Sculpture (1977) by Carl Andre, located adjacent to the Ancient Burial Ground, and Amaryllis (1965) by Tony Smith, which stands on the Wadsworth Atheneum’s front lawn. Studies and presentation models for all three sculptures, as well as two temporary outdoor works, are currently on display in a special exhibition at the museum through the end of October.”


-Dr. Amanda A. Douberley

Academic Liaison/Assistant Curator, William Benton Museum of Art

You SHOULD…See: A Taxi Driver

“You Should “See” Taxi Driver(2017) …  No, not Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster, the new South Korean one…


Lost in the barrage of news surrounding North Korean nuclear ambitions and Singapore dreams is the astonishing current history of South Korea. Throughout 2016-2017, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans marched in downtown Seoul leading to the rare—if not unprecedented—peaceful and democratic overthrow of a democratically elected national leader. Immediately coined, “The Candlelight Revolution”because protestors armed themselves only with small flames, a central demand was the government’s ongoing accountability for the country’s dictatorship era (1953-1993). Gone are the secret jails and “disappeared” family members. Throughout the past twenty-five years, South Koreans have transformed their society into a vibrant democracy with regular elections and the right to challenge government openly. Up for grabs now is writing the history that came before, and central in the mix is the 1980 Gwangju uprising during which South Korean troops slaughtered several hundred largely unarmed citizens who were demanding the release from jail of the prominent pro-democracy politician, Kim Dae-jung.


Last summer, acclaimed director Jang Hoon released Taxi Driver, starring South Korea’s George Clooney, Song Kong-ho, in a fictionalized work-up of a real-life cab driver who ferried German journalist, Jurgen Hintzpeter, to the center of the violence as it unfolded in Gwangju. Hintzpeter’s smuggled footage of South Korean soldiers shooting innocent students caused an international sensation and ultimately led South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan to reign in the massacre. More violence would come until his overthrow in 1987, and the real cab driver never surfaced despite Hintzpeter subsequent efforts to find him.


In the whorl of today’s debate about North Korea, Taxi Driver underscores why it is essential to include South Korea as an equal in any discussion concerning Korea’s collective future. ”


-Alexis Dudden
Professor of History
University of Connecticut


You SHOULD…Read:Orwell, Leopold, and Teale

“You should…Read: Orwell, Leopold, and Teale

But not the Orwell you think. Read  Politics and the English language to be reminded that “Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind” and Shooting an elephant for a concrete example of how “when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.”[1] Read Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac to learn that when Canada geese return north in the spring “the whole continent receives as net profit a wild poem dropped from the murky skies upon the muds of March” and the many things a poor farm can teach those willing to learn. Read Teale’s A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm to learn Leopold’s lessons in our own backyard on a farm in Hampton.

[1] And for the best first sentence in an essay: “In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by a large number of people–the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.” WARNING: Descriptions in the essay would have offended many in 1936. More will find them offensive now.”


-Kent E. Holsinger
Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor,
Vice provost for Graduate Education,
Dean of the Graduate School,
University of Connecticut

You SHOULD…Watch: Diary of a Student Revolution


“You SHOULD…Watch: Diary of a Student Revolution

This documentary, part of the UConn Library’s Archives & Special Collections, portrays the conflict between the radical student movement and President Homer D. Babbidge at the University of Connecticut over ten days in the Fall of 1968.  In addition to its spontaneous takes and candid behind the scenes footage, this minimally narrated piece of Vietnam-era journalism about a very local place in America documents the range of voices, gathering places, and aesthetics of dissent at an important moment in our campus’ history.  In a period when the American invasion of Vietnam was shaken by the Tet Offensive earlier that year, the draft of eligible young men into the military continued, the lack of diversity in the student and faculty body on campus was evident, and the administration’s business as usual approach to campus recruitment for the petrochemical industry drew out students who sought to ‘bring the war home.’  Despite its brevity in timespan, this 1-hour film makes accessible a corresponding archival collection measuring roughly 30 linear feet of Administrative Records, Press Clippings, Underground Newspapers, Photographs, Student Government Documents, SDS Fliers and Posters which document the “Crisis at UConn.”

Diary of a Student Revolution poses many questions to the archive about the role of institutional memory and its power to document, surveil or reflect; its ability to share the voices held within and what they may say of the present; as well as its role in erasure and resuscitation of the historical past.  As documented, student chants of “Keep the Status Quo” mirrored those sentiments of the silent majority which would lead this country to seven more years of war and a deepening rift between parents and children, workers and students, soldiers and statesmen.  This film gives me hope for a student body to make change by clamoring for the impossible till it grows from a din to a deafening.”


Graham Stinnett
Human Rights and Alternative Press Collections
UConn Library

Diary of a Student Revolution (1969):


D’Archive Ep. 4 “Abbie Hoffman, UConn and the War in Vietnam”(2017):


UConn Archives Alternative Press Collection:




You SHOULD…Read: The Sand Queen


“Ok readers: the “bad” and the truly bad humanities. The queen of “bad” is Lady Gaga The Brilliant. Am already standing in line for tickets to A Star is Born coming out in October. Am already planning to see it numerous times. If “bad” is good, she’s one of the best –the Super Bowl of 2017 proved that. Just try to deny her.


The truly bad? War. Wanna go there? Read a slew of novels and memoirs out these days or zero in on the best one in the bunch. Helen Benedict’sThe Sand Queen is a multivoiced novel of the early American war in Iraq. In one corner is a young American army woman, Kate, continuously tormented by her male comrades-in-arms as they guard an infamous prison camp (Bucca, it actually existed) and continuously tormented as well by the “enemy” male prisoners she oversees. In another corner is an Iraqi woman near Kate’s age, Naema, whose male relatives get brutally seized by American troops, leaving the family to stand at the prison camp gates with others to plead for news of all the innocent mistreated male family members held there. Be prepared: there is no redemption in this novel for either character or for the reader, no nicey-nice friendship between Kate and Naema that soothes the pain on both sides. No. it’s war, baby. Wanna go now?


See Gaga after reading Queen and imagine the anger she would unleash at those gates. ”



– Christine Sylvester
Professor of Political Science
University of Connecticut




You SHOULD…Look At: Pincushions


“You SHOULD…Look At: Pincushions”



“The method of reading material things as scripts aims to discover not what

any individual actually did but rather what a thing invites us to do.”


— Robin Bernstein, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil

Rights  (2011): 11.


“Round, filled with stuffing, and covered with shiny fabric, pincushions are ornamental objects despite their quotidian purpose. As household commodity, they embody a distinct home-tied intimacy. An object which dates back to the fourteenth century, pincushions were arguably in their heyday during the Victorian “cult of domesticity” era. In the mid- to late-nineteenth century, it was believed that having a tomato on the mantle would bring prosperity and wealth. A tomato pincushion served as a convenient facsimile when tomatoes were out of season.


For me, a pincushion immediately reminds me of my mother, a Japanese woman and military wife who used patterns bought at the Base Exchange to make my clothes. The pincushion she owned both fascinated and scared me. Bordered by eight clinging figures with identical faces and matching pony tails, my mother’s pincushion was strikingly “exotic.” But what scared me were the faces, which featured exaggerated slanted eyes and thin smiling mouths. Their faces were a constant reminder of my own difference as one of the few Asian Americans in my school. My non-Asian American classmates took considerable pleasure in highlighting that difference by “slanting” their eyes, asking if my family ate dogs, and telling me to “go back to where I came from.”


It was not until graduate school, when I made the fateful decision to shift my area of focus from Victorian literature to Asian American studies, that I came to see my mother’s pincushion as a historically-driven artifact. When Chinese immigrants were recruited en masse in the 1850s and 1860s to labor in mines and work on the western portion of the transcontinental railroad, they were met with great xenophobia and racial violence. Unlike their Irish counterparts, Chinese railroad workers – as so-termed “sojourners” — were not allowed to bring their families. As early as 1854, in People v. Hall, Chinese were – along with indigenous people and African Americans – prohibited from testifying against whites in the newly annexed state of California. After 1878, in a ruling issued by the Ninth Circuit Court in California, Chinese immigrants were denied the right to naturalize. And, in 1882, Congress passed what would – until recently – be the only immigration prohibition to name a specific ethnic group: the Chinese Exclusion Act.


Cast as inassimilable subjects, treated as disposable “coolies,” and depicted as a “yellow peril” Chinese immigrants faced considerable discrimination in the U.S. labor market. As Irish women moved out of the laundry business, Chinese men unable to find work, filled the void. They came to dominate – out of racialized necessity – the industry, a reality reflected in laundry service product advertising which repeatedly accessed a Manchu hair style (the queue) and traditional dress to economically depict “Chinese-ness.”


In closing, situated within a longue durée history of immigration and racialization, the pincushion my mother owned was both byproduct of and testament to fact that the United States – notwithstanding claims otherwise – was not always a welcoming “nation of immigrants.” Despite this, the very fact it was in her possession, coupled with its intimate connection to an Asian American childhood, accentuates a nostalgia that I cannot fully shake.”

Cathy J. Schlund-Vials
Associate Dean for Humanities & Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Professor of English and Asian/Asian American Studies




You SHOULD…Play: Horizon Zero Dawn

“You should immerse yourself in new, strange, and sometime dystopian worlds through playing video games such as:


Horizon Zero Dawn by Guerrilla Games


Any of the Fallout Series by Bethesda Game Studios


I recommend playing any of these recent action/role-playing games as a way to experience multiple types of creative output at the same time: graphics, design, narrative and character development, music, and movement. It is an awe-some and brain-tingling, anticipatory experience to tear the plastic wrap off a new game, pop it into my console, and awake in a new environment having to suss out what are the rules and boundaries that govern this particular world or universe. I have learned my ethical and moral compass is strong because I can’t play a bad guy and sleep well afterwards. I appreciate the truly visceral realness of the experience, so much so that my mind conjures up what it would smell like walking through this landscape or that. Many of the latest games are so beautiful that I like to take pictures of my cats as they walk in front of the monitor with the game world as their backdrop.”


Anne Langley
Dean of the UConn Library

You SHOULD…Read: Frankenstein and Black Skin, White Masks

“I recommend reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) and Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (1952) together.  Shelley was an anti-colonialist who was also concerned with the great question of what it means to be a human being, especially as posed by the Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  The novel raises the problem of taking responsibility for what one creates and the damage that occurs from failing to do so.  She raises, as well, the perspective of the created, the Creature, whose existential struggle against his monstrosity is epic.  Fanon examines a similar question from the perspective of those created from colonialism, enslavement, and its accompanying racism.  Written when he was 25 years old, it places him in conversation with the precocious Shelley, who wrote her great work when she was 19.  These books offer the prescience and intellectual capacity of youth and the importance of speaking to the human condition across the ages.   As both show, maturity requires not imitation but realizing the question one must pose for subsequent generations.   Failure to do such leaves little recourse but to burn in the cleansing force of fire or collapse in the despair of tears.  And what might such question be but the creation of conditions for living embodiments of freedom?”


-Lewis Gordon,
Professor of Philosophy
University of Connecticut

You SHOULD…Read: “The Fifth Season”

“You should read …

N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. To identify this book as “fantasy” or “post-apocalyptic,” while accurate, would also be wholly inadequate. At its core, The Fifth Season is a novel about power, oppression, and the costs—physical, emotional, and psychological—of living in a world that denies your humanity so thoroughly that you cannot even recognize it in yourself.

In brief, the story involves a tectonically unstable world in which one small group of people possess the power to sense and control these tectonic shifts. When a massive earthquake shakes this fragile land, it initiates a “fifth season” of ash and death, forcing characters to make difficult choices about how to survive. This summary makes the novel seem primarily environmental in its concerns, but Jemisin is after more than a warning about the dangers of massive ecosystem collapse. At its core, The Fifth Season is a study of fear as a method of social control, determining who is “us” and who is “other,” who is a person and who is merely a tool. Jemisin’s nuanced world-building is designed not to impress with its innovation, but rather to bring us into a deeper understanding of how histories are forgotten and rewritten over time and how caste systems are built over generations. Like all good fantasy, the allegory of own world is clear, but at the same time the fictional world offers us the opportunity to explore with new eyes, exposing our own biases and assumptions. Jemisin draws us into her characters with remarkable skill, vividly evoking the difficulties of loving and trusting when your life is marked by fear and abuse. In the end, we must ask which poses a greater threat to these characters’ survival: the land itself, unstable and deadly, or a society that asks nothing less than the sacrifice of our own humanity. ”


-Lindsay Cummings
Assistant Professor of Dramatic Arts
CRT Dramaturg
University of Connecticut