The book chosen for 2013-2014, “Little Princes” by Conor Grennan, continues to advance the mantra of the institution. The common reading selection reflects Elon University’s commitment to developing global citizens, according to Jeffrey Coker, chair of the common reading committee and director of the general studies program.
“It deals with themes the campus cares a lot about, including diversity and global engagement,” Coker said. “It also takes us to a region that we haven’t been before and that we often don’t think a lot about.”
The common reading committee finished the selection process three months ahead of schedule because the members expressed unprecedented agreement on “Little Princes.”
“Little Princes” describes the author’s experience working at an orphanage in Nepal. While volunteering at the orphanage, he learns the boys housed there are not orphans, but rather victims of human trafficking. In response to this realization, Grennan works to reunite the children with their parents, inciting a journey through the foreign country.
The human trafficking element in “Little Princes” will provoke service-learning projects involving children and social issues, Coker said. Furthermore, he said he expects the reading selection to inspire additional campus programming concerning the region and Buddhist and Hindu traditions.
But despite the serious nature of the topics presented, the author compliments the account with humor, according to Mark Enfield, assistant professor of education, who proposed the book to the Common Reading Committee.
“There is a sense of lightheartedness and hope at the end, but it’s dealing with really unpleasant things and child trafficking and taking advantage of people in a disadvantaged situation,” he said.
Still, Enfield agrees the book addresses Elon’s objectives as an institution. The book’s focus on education and the plight of disempowered individuals relates to The Elon Commitment, he said.
While the memoir illuminates the academic values of the institution, Coker said he believes certain aspects speak strongly to incoming freshmen. The book features Grennan engaged in society, navigating an unfamiliar culture and serving those in the local community.
“The personal development theme is really strong, and we hope that will connect strongly with incoming freshmen,” Coker said.
Coker said he believes students will also gain from meeting Grennan, who has already agreed to speak at Elon in September.
The opportunity to meet the author provides students with a holistic literary experience and reveals the human condition woven into the text on the page, according to Coker.
Coker expressed disappointment that this year’s common reading author, David Eggers, did not visit campus. When selecting the common reading book for the upcoming year, Coker framed the proposal to indicate the book would only be chosen if the author was willing to speak at Elon.
“I think for most students entering college, they tend to think of books as set documents written by distant people, and to have that interaction with the author and internalize literature written by humans just like us is a really important lesson for students to get right at the beginning of their college education,” he said.