NEHS Common Readers
After careful discussion and consideration of numerous recommendations, the Advisory Council decided to try something a bit different for the coming year. Reading research tells us giving students choice when it comes to independent reading has a positive impact on how much readers enjoy and engage in their reading. Therefore, we are going to move in this direction for the coming year and have identified two Common Readers; students interested in applying for the Merit Scholarships are invited to consider both texts and select the one they find most inviting. We will provide two separate prompt sets; no prompts will require that students compare the two texts. Assessment of the submitted essays will occur as in the past; we believe either text will generate excellent writing.
The two novels have some similarities but are set in different eras, one in Ohio in 1977, the other in China and Japan in 1937. One deals with a family tragedy, an event that exposes fault lines within the family; the other, set against the backdrop of the Japanese invasion of China, carefully and beautifully unveils human kindness and weakness. Applicants for the Merit Scholarships are to select ONE of these two texts as the basis of their application submissions, which will be due January 14, 2019.
The Samurai's Garden
The Samurai's Garden, by Gail Tsukiyama leads the reader to Tarumi, a quiet seaside village in Japan where Stephen, the Chinese protagonist, is sent to convalesce from tuberculosis. Isolated from family and friends, tended to by Matsu, the family caregiver and gardener, Stephen learns about human dignity, compassion, and rejection. From a review by Publisher's Weekly, "Tsukiyama's writing is crystalline and delicate, notably in her evocation of time and place. This quiet tale of affection between people whose countries are at war speaks of a humanity that transcends geopolitics."
Everything I Never Told You
The second option for the Common Reader is Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng. From the first sentence of the novel, readers learn that Lydia, the middle child of a Chinese-American father and a white mother, is dead. This startling fact, known to the reader before the characters in the novel realize what has happens, becomes the catalyst around which swirl family secrets, frustrations, and anger, tempered aspirations, secrets and lies, accusations, denials, and resolutions. From National Public Radio, "This [the novel's harrowing story] all takes place in an era when interracial marriages are only recently legal (the Supreme Court struck down interracial marriage bans in 1967). Lydia's death forces members of the Lee family to confront their individual insecurities and grapple with their identity as a biracial family in the Midwest."