Common Read

The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham

About the Author

Lauren Markham is a writer based in Berkeley, California, focusing on issues related to youth, migration, the environment, and her home state of California. Her work has appeared in outlets such as Harper’s, the New Republic, Orion, the Guardian, the New York Times, and VQR, where she is a contributing editor. Lauren earned her MFA in fiction writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. For over a decade, she has worked in the fields of refugee resettlement and immigrant education.

About the Book

The deeply reported story of identical twin brothers who escape El Salvador’s violence to build new lives in California—fighting to survive, to stay, and to belong.

 

Previous Common Reads

Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by Kristen Green

Combining hard-hitting investigative journalism and a sweeping family narrative, this provocative true story reveals a little-known chapter of American history: the period after the Brown v. Board of Education decision when one Virginia school system refused to integrate.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s unanimous Brown v. Board of Education decision, Virginia’s Prince Edward County refused to obey the law. Rather than desegregate, the county closed its public schools, locking and chaining the doors. The community’s white leaders quickly established a private academy, commandeering supplies from the shuttered public schools to use in their all-white classrooms. Meanwhile, black parents had few options: keep their kids at home, move across county lines, or send them to live with relatives in other states. For five years, the schools remained closed.

At once gripping, enlightening, and deeply moving, Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County, is a dramatic chronicle that explores our troubled racial past and its reverberations today, and a timeless story about compassion, forgiveness, and the meaning of home.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger. But William had read about windmills, and he dreamed of building one that would bring to his small village a set of luxuries that only 2 percent of Malawians could enjoy: electricity and running water. His neighbors called him misala—crazy—but William refused to let go of his dreams. With a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks; some scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves; and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to forge an unlikely contraption and small miracle that would change the lives around him.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a remarkable true story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. It will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual’s ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him.

 

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.