The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) reacts in the dugout after Texas A&M’s game against Tennessee at the NCAA Men’s College World Series finals at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M pitcher Kaiden Wilson (30) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Tennessee at the NCAA Men’s College World Series finals at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Bonded by books

Susan+Egenolf%2C+head+of+Brazos+Valley+Reads%2C+stands+among+past+Brazos+Valley+Reads+posters+lining+the+walls+of+the+Department+of+English.
Photo by Photo by Laura Haslam

Susan Egenolf, head of Brazos Valley Reads, stands among past Brazos Valley Reads posters lining the walls of the Department of English.

It’s all about bringing books to the people.
Brazos Valley Reads, an organization founded to bring internationally recognized authors to local communities, engages students, faculty and community members in thoughtful discussions about literature.
For 13 years, Brazos Valley Reads has partnered with Blinn College and the Glasscock Center for Humanities to unify the community, high schools and universities in the pursuit of knowledge through dialogue on literature and sociopolitical issues. This year, BVR 2017 will host Jennifer Clement and her novel, Prayers for the Stolen, which discusses the kidnapping of young women in Mexico. Clement also works as the president of PEN International, a group dedicated to protecting and supporting writers’ and journalists’ freedom of expression.
In addition to her public events, Clement, like many of the BVR authors before her, will come in and discuss the book with students who are reading the book in their English classes. Lawrence Oliver, English professor, said he’s most excited about the discussions that will happen between students currently reading the book and the book’s author.
“There are a million good books out there, but it’s rare to actually have the author come and stand in front of you, read from the book and answer questions,” Oliver said. “We say that in liberal arts, we teach our students to read critically and engage in civil discourse. And these are perfect opportunities to do that both in class and at the event.”
As a member of BVR’s Selection Committee, Oliver and others try to choose books that will reflect the interests of the larger community and engage students at the college and high school level. Clement’s novel gives the students, faculty and the public information and perspectives that they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to and what they otherwise wouldn’t think about, Oliver said.
“We look for books that are contemporary, that are timely and speak to relevant social and political issues,” Oliver said. “I think all of us should be reading all the time and discussing the books, because it’s terribly important that we get other people’s perspectives on what we read, especially now more than ever.”
The organization was founded back in 2005 by former Head of the Department of English, Paul Parrish, and the Dean of Liberal Arts, Pamela Matthews. BVR was begun simply to unify the community and university through a book, Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying, and the discussion of it, Matthews said.
“When I was associate department head, the head and I got the idea to pick a book and then have everybody read it — having the community and schools be a part of it as well,” Matthews said. “So we started the BVR Project, and the program is still going. It’s one of those things that didn’t go away when you did, which is so great, because many things do. It still happens every year, and I love that.”
Susan Egenolf, current head coordinator of the Brazos Valley Reads Project, encourages everyone to come to the events, which are free and open to the public, whether or not you’ve read the book. “It’s about learning and pursuing knowledge in community with people of all different perspectives,” Egenolf said.
“This particular book is a great book in terms of opening our eyes to something that’s going on all the time — these sort of abuses against women, sex trafficking,” Egenolf said. “It’s something that people often know goes on, but this book and Jennifer Clement’s 10 years of research for it, talking to women all over Mexico, really gives people the opportunity to spend a few hours thinking about something that we don’t spend enough time thinking about.”
As an organization devoted to furthering education inside and outside the university, BVR aims to give the community the opportunity to have a common and shared reading experience, come to together to talk about relevant issues and be inspired by creative and generous authors, Egenolf said.
“We’re about outreaching in the community through reading,” Egenolf said. “We want to encourage people to read and read fiction, to pick up a book and think critically about it. Our novels often encourage members of the community to think about and discuss narratives and important social issues that may fall outside of their personal lived experiences.”
The main conference, including discussions and books signings with Clement, will take place April 6 at 7 p.m. in the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center. More public events will be taking place the week of the conference, including coffee events. For more information and to view the full event list visit BVR’s informational page: english.tamu.edu/brazos-valley-reads/

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