The Trance of Tribe

By Michael R. Malone

The Trance of Tribe

By Michael R. Malone
Novelist Jennine Capó Crucet’s book talk on March 20 explores belonging, identity, and what it means to be a first-generation college student.

“I could’ve stayed in that trance—happy to be among a tribe,” muses the Cuban-American protagonist in Jennine Capó Crucet’s novel Make Your Home Among Strangers, the U’s designated 2018-19 One Book, One U common book.

The trance of connecting to your “tribe”—of belonging, the pangs of immigration, and especially what it means to be a first-generation college student and Cuban-American in Miami was among the themes that Capó Crucet explored in her book talk March 20 at 4 p.m. in the Senate Room of the Shalala Student Center.

Everyone attending the book talk will receive a copy of the novel, winner of the international Latino Book Award for Best Latino-themed Fiction and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.

Capó Crucet’s appearance on campus anchors a series of common-book events offered through One Book, One U, an initiative sponsored by the SEEDS program, the English Department, Creative Writing Program, Women’s and Gender Studies Program, the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Law and the Office of Institutional Culture, among others.  

“The topic is just so right for us, so ideal because of the book’s setting [Miami] and its exploration of being a first-generation college student,” said Chantel Acevedo, professor in the Creative Writing Program who together with Osamudia James, vice dean and professor in the School of Law, have spearheaded the initiative.

The selection of a common book is designed to spur conversation around relevant current themes, and a number of departments and schools have offered related events to expand that conversation. 

At the School of Law, two alumni, Pauline Green, J.D. ’14, now executive director of The Alliance for GLBTQ Youth, and Andre Pierre, J.D. ’97, a former two-time mayor of North Miami, and current student Edgar Sirenord led a spirited discussion in mid-February on the first-generation experience. 

“It was a wonderful evening and a full crowd,” said James. “People shared their stories—sometimes funny, sometimes serious—about coming to the country or to the University for the first time or about things that we have to overcome in society in order to succeed.”

In past weeks, other events included a talk at Pearson Residential College; an open class discussion led by English Professor Lindsay Thomas, who’s teaching the book this semester; and other events at the Ring Theatre and as part of Week of Cuban Culture.

Additionally, a few events will follow Capó Crucet’s appearance on campus. UM Libraries hosts the Youth, Families, Acculturation and Adjustment colloquium with lunch on March 30. The Honors Students’ Association Sigma Tau Delta on April 12 hosts A Novel Discourse: Make Your Home Among Strangers at the Shalala Student Center and the O, Miami Poetry Festival 2018 sponsors Before It Sinks Into the Sea: Micro-Elegies for Miami, a writing exercise at The Rock on April 19.

Capó Crucet, currently on faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was born in Hialeah and grew up in Miami. Make Your Home Among Strangers has been promoted by a number of universities around the country as a common book because of its pertinent themes for students.