The 2022 seniors from Wake Forest’s Sigma Omega chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society, will be the fourth class to add beloved books to the organization’s permanent collection in Ammons Lounge in Tribble Hall. Each senior selected a book that they studied at Wake Forest that was personally significant to them. The books will be inscribed with the student’s name and an explanation of what the book meant to the graduate.
Here are their picks:
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Unfortunately, the themes from this dystopian novel are all too relevant today; however, the experiences of the women in this novel stuck with me, and I think about them all of the time.
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
I absolutely loved this novel when I read it for Dr. Franco’s American Ethnic Lit Class (one of my favorite classes!). Everything in this book is exactly as it seems and also, simultaneously, not at all how it seems. Its characters are both alive and ghostly, its places both real and imagined. The narrative style feels simple and grounded yet also ethereal, even mythological, as its prose becomes poetry becomes song becomes prose again. Time itself is warped and stretched and crumpled and smoothed out again in a really satisfying way. In both style and story, Ceremony felt different than any other novel I’ve read for this major, and I felt very moved by Tayo’s journey. This is a novel that haunts and eludes, and I think I will think about this book long after graduation!
Angels in America (Millennium Approaches and Perestroika) by Tony Kushner
I read this play as a part of my coursework for ENG 394: Contemporary Drama, and it was the first truly “epic” work of American dramatic literature that I had ever read. Kushner’s characters are compassionate, cruel, and sometimes contradictory, and his narrative treatment of the AIDS crisis weaves history together with fiction in challenging ways. Angels in America is funny, tragic, and hopeful in equal parts, and reading it has made me a more complex thinker as well as a gentler (and yet somehow more resolute) person.
Blurring the Boundaries edited by B.J. Hollars
Blurring the Boundaries has taught me things about writing and life I will carry forever. Understanding and confronting memory and truth in the context of creative nonfiction has provided me many enjoyable moments of writing at Wake. The book’s different essays help me continue to look deeper and differently. My favorite is Monica Alrdich’s “The Structure of Trouble.”
The Tradition by Jericho Brown
I have sincerely enjoyed the many novels and other works of prose I have read during my time as an undergraduate here, but I have learned that poetry, above all else, simply must be experienced. Jericho Brown’s The Tradition is a collection of poetry defying summary. I first read his work during the second of two poetry classes I took with Dr. Lucy Alford, of which I l loved every second. Brown is an urgent and honest poet who embodies all that I love about poetry as an art form — emotional verse, lucid vulnerability, and linguistic beauty. He even invents a new form of poetry in his series of Duplex poems, opening with a line that best describes both the collection and my time here at Wake Forest: “A poem is a gesture toward home.”
Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre.
I’m writing my thesis on it and it really provided me a new lens for thinking about human experience, what kind of beings we are, and questions regarding our motivations.
The Paper Menagerie
by Ken Liu. I first read selections from this short story collection in Dr. Lee’s Asian American Fiction class, and I was instantly captivated. A year later, I just finished writing my thesis on “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” and “A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel,” which I find to be the most poignant stories in the collection, and I am amazed at Liu’s ability to interweave science fiction and history to create powerful and evocative narratives. After writing almost 40 pages analyzing these works, there is still so much more that could be unpacked, which I think is a huge testament to the complexity and richness of Liu’s fiction.
Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
This text ignited my love for Gothic and Victorian literature. I was struck by the way in which Lady Audley is herself perverted by the violence of the male gaze and the way in which the reader must decide which character deserves their sympathy. This text is a perfect example of Victorian gendered expectations while bringing in the thrill and mystery of sensation novels.
Adam Bede by George Eliot
I was first introduced to George Eliot through Adam Bede in my first 19th century British Literature course with Dr. Pyke. Eliot’s conversations on womanhood, art, vision, clothing, sympathy, and so much more has inspired me to read and choose Middlemarch for my senior thesis. Her long, but mighty novels inform me of my own space in the world and the multiplicity of narratives that exist in the web of life.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Re-encountering Great Expectations in college allowed me to fully appreciate the beauty of this tale of Pip’s tragic trajectory of misplaced ambition. In today’s world, we are constantly striving to achieve so much, and we often feel pressured to be busy constantly. In a world where we schedule ourselves morning until night with classes, extracurricular activities, and social plans, it is all too easy to follow Pip’s path and lose sight of what really matters to us. Pip’s tale warns us of the perils of ambitiously seeking social achievement and status without grounding oneself in morals and higher values. In a society where so many things seem to be constantly demanding our time or attention, I hope that anyone who stumbles upon this book will rediscover the value of unscheduled time reading for joy and learning valuable lessons from the past that are still relevant to us today.
“When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own” (essay) by Jaqueline Jones Royster
This is a text I read rather recently; however, I believe it exemplifies my experience at Wake. This piece shines a light on moments of being silenced due to one’s positionality and surroundings. This is something that I have experienced for most of my life, feeling unheard and silenced in academic and social settings. However, my time at Wake as a writing minor has played an integral part in finding my voice in writing and my voice in general. This essay deeply resonates with me, and I know that had I read it early on it would have inspired me to get to the place I am today. I hope Royster’s words can inspire students in years to come!
Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici
This text opened my eyes to the ways in which women could look at the world and their place in it. I read this with in a class overlooking the cliffs in Cornwall. On the cliffsides, I discovered how broadly the stories we tell ourselves influence how we see the interwoven pieces of the world around us.
Educated by Tara Westover
The memoir style of this book exposed me to a new genre that is both therapeutic to the reader and to the writer. This book inspired me to take writing courses at Wake and to discover what my story to share is. Tara’s journey from incredible hardship to success through education is what motivated me to pursue teaching after graduation as well.
Listed below are Sigma Tau Delta’s graduating seniors who did not contribute a book:
Sara Kathryn McCormick