Freshman & Freshman Honors Reading

The Freshman Summer Reading letter contains complete information about the program, assignments, and reading selections. (*underlined portion is linked to a pdf of the letter)

Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama
The daughter of a Chinese mother and a Japanese father, Tsukiyama uses the Japanese invasion of China during the late 1930s as a somber backdrop for her unusual story about a 20-year-old Chinese painter named Stephen who is sent to his family's summer home in a Japanese coastal village to recover from a bout with tuberculosis. Here he is cared for by Matsu, a reticent housekeeper and a master gardener. Over the course of a remarkable year, Stephen learns Matsu's secret and gains not only physical strength, but also profound spiritual insight. Matsu is a samurai of the soul, a man devoted to doing good and finding beauty in a cruel and arbitrary world, and Stephen is a noble student, learning to appreciate Matsu's generous and nurturing way of life and to love Matsu's soul mate, gentle Sachi, a woman afflicted with leprosy.  (Review adapted from Amazon)

As part of the student experience of the novel, arrangements are being made to visit Hakone Gardens in Saratoga and to invite author Gail Tsukiyama to speak to students on campus about her writing process.

Stealing Buddha's Dinner: a Memoir, by Bich Minh Nguyen (ND Reads)
As a Vietnamese girl coming of age in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nguyen is filled with a hunger for American identity, and, in the pre-PC-era Midwest (where the Jennifers and Tiffanys reign supreme), a preference for American food over her Buddhist grandmother's traditional specialties. The campy, preservative-filled junk food of mainstream America becomes a metaphor for Nguyen's struggle to become, herself, a "real" American, a distinction that brings with it the dream of the perfect school lunch, burgers and Jell- O for dinner, and a visit from the Kool-Aid man. Vivid and viscerally powerful, this remarkable memoir about growing up in the 1980s introduces an original new literary voice and an entirely new spin on the classic assimilation story. (Review adapted from Amazon)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (please read or re-read this novel if you haven’t read it recently).

The classic novel of childhood in a sleepy Alabama town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. Told through the voice of Scout, an observant young girl in the pre-Civil Rights South, To Kill a Mockingbird explores the tensions of race, class, mental and physical illness, as well as the paths toward justice and heroism demonstrated by Scout’s family and community. (Review adapted from Amazon)

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