“The idea for the book club arose from Kirsten’s research studying the effectiveness of humanitarian advocacy and my research on the efficacy of fiction for engagement and social action,” Ghaly said. “I used my class on the novel and the refugee crisis as a case study. The novels immersed students in the lives of characters who were responding to complex situations. Students were reading and discussing collaboratively, which created a real sense of community and empowerment to act.”
Ghaly and Gelsdorf said they are confident the engagement they documented at the classroom level can extrapolate to a global audience.
The project is funded by UVA’s Environmental Resilience Institute, with support from the Institute for the Humanities and Global Cultures, Environmental Humanities, and Brown College.
The first book the club will discuss is “The Displacements” by UVA’s Bruce Holsinger, an English professor who has written several widely read novels.
"The Displacements" will be read through Dec. 7, with a livestreamed conversation noon to 1:15 p.m. that day. The Holsinger book will be followed by “Exit West” by Moshin Hamid, from Jan. 15 to Feb. 15, and “How Beautiful We Were,” by Imbolo Mbue, from Feb. 20 to March 20.
“The Displacements” imagines the aftermath of this country’s first Category 6 hurricane, focusing on the impact it has on a wealthy Miami family forced to relocate to a federal encampment.
“I’m eager to be part of these new conversations around fiction and humanitarian action, and I am excited to see how the various constituencies involved in Read for Action engage the important questions at the center of the project,” Holsinger said.