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"Common Book" Author Visits Stimulate Discussions on Asian Cultural and Traditional Practices

Claudia Kolker’s book “The Immigrant Advantage” has been the 2014-15 CONVERSATIONS: Beyond the Book project focus of classroom discussions and campus events at Lone Star College-CyFair.

CONVERSATIONS: Beyond the BookLSC-CyFair’s English and History Departments spearheaded this year-long project in which students in multiple disciplines read a “common book” and attended campus events related to the book. The effort began with the 2012-13 book “Constitution Café” by Christopher Phillips, followed in 2013-14 with “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.

This year, students read and discussed the “The Immigrant Advantage” in which Kolker, a former Houston Chronicle reporter and world traveler, describes cultural practices that immigrant groups bring to America that Kolker believes could enrich American culture.

"The Immigrant Advatnage" book coverThis past fall, Kolker came to campus for a presentation and Q&A session that drew more than 300 students, faculty and community members. The students had the opportunity to meet the author, discuss their response to her book and to share their own cultural experiences.

“We were really pleased that Claudia was able to come to campus to talk with our students,” said Matthew Turner, coordinator of the CONVERSATIONS project. “The long line of students, and faculty waiting to meet her after her presentation was testament to how her book got students to think about the successful ways cultures deal with money, or marriage, or neighbors.”

In March, students were able to participate in a forum about another cultural activity Kolker describes in her book. History Professor Robert O’Brien led the forum which explored afterschool programs popular with Korean and other Asian communities. Panelists discussed these education programs - often taught in their native languages - that students attend in the afternoons, evenings and weekends to expand their education.

In April, Kolker returned to campus to join Professor Macarena Aguilar’s ESOL class as well as English Composition students for another book discussion.

“It has been great to use Claudia’s book for our project because she lives in Houston and has been very excited to meet with our students,” said Turner. “Her book has also stimulated conversations in classrooms and in hallways.”

Based on the success of this year’s project, the CONVERSATIONS committee is already in the process of selecting another book for the next academic year.

In conjunction to such author visits, a student essay contest with the theme “The Best Tradition in My Culture” is being held this semester. Prizes for the winning essays include a new tablet and cash. The deadline submission is April 24.

For essay contest or event information, email Matthew.G.Turner@LoneStar.edu