The 2023 seniors from Wake Forest’s Sigma Omega chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society, will be the fifth class to add their favorite 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 is this year’s list of contributions:
Abolition. Feminism. Now. by Angela Y. Davis, Gina Dent, Erica R. Meiners, and Beth E. Richie
I read this text in my African American Literature course: The Black Radical Tradition, and it encapsulated the course argument for collaborative community over individualism. Reading this in my senior year as I prepared to enter the workforce full-time as a teacher created a particular resonance. Often graduates feel pressured to show their readiness for the “real-world” by deciding their next steps entirely alone. Abolition. Feminism. Now. encouraged me to think for myself while prioritizing collaboration as I moved forward.
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
I, like many English majors, was already familiar with the few tales lucky enough to be included in the Norton Anthology. But I consider my return to the entirety of The Canterbury Tales from January-August 2022 to be one of the most rewarding literary encounters I’ve ever had. The poetry generates a steady, hypnotic heartbeat, which guides a reading experience more meditative than investigative. Day in and day out I could return to it – something so impossibly long, that I was never concerned with reaching the end (and in fact, the entire work is likely unfinished.) Such patience is difficult to prioritize in a homework assignment, but it is a feeling that suits Chaucer’s narrative subject – pilgrimage – so well. Henry and Mudge taught me to read, but The Canterbury Tales taught me to reread.
The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
This text was a blast to read just on the basic level of plot and language. But through Dr. Brown’s African American Literature class discussions and engaging with some critical pieces about Whitehead’s breakout novel, this work opened up and bottomed out to something far more vast than I initially expected. I was amazed and surprised by elements of this novel that critiques academia, race, and postmodernism. This is also the first book where I feel like I understand what postmodernism can be.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
It’s hard to put into words how beautiful I found this book. I truly think that everyone should give this a read. It breaks barriers in what a memoir is thought to be and provides insight into the complexities of relationships, especially between two women. It is always nice to see representation of yourself in books, especially those critically acclaimed like In the Dream House.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
I would usually never choose to read a memoir; I’d skip over them in stores and would dread reading them in class. This book opened my eyes to how great memoirs can be. I discovered there is so much to learn from other people’s experiences and wisdom. This book moved me so much that it is one of the only books I’ve read for school that I cried for. I’ve recommended it to all of my friends as a book about love and loss. It was heartbreaking, yet beautiful and I know I will read it again someday.
Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky
When I read this collection of poetry in my 20th Century American Poetry English class, I felt the interdisciplinary nature of the world and my place in it. Kaminsky blends narrative, poetry, and historical fiction into a contemplation of what language can truly mean when so many other things are lost. How do we communicate across borderlands of age, language, war, and country? The impact of the reading was twofold: I was inspired by the simply beautiful poetics and I was inspired to always cross-pollinate my academic interests.
Mao II by Don DeLillo
I wrote my honors thesis on this book. The process of writing an honors thesis reminded me of why I love reading and writing, as I was able to apply my knowledge of other areas of English to the postmodern genre in a way that I didn’t know I was capable of.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
M&M was the last novel I read in my last literature class at Wake. Simultaneously a fantasy and a gritty commentary of Soviet Russia, it is a fascinating novel for our current moment.
Dubliners by James Joyce
I chose this collection of short stories not only due to their content themselves, but also because of the time at which I studied them. I read Dubliners in Dr. Klein’s James Joyce course the fall of my Sophomore year, also the fall in which we returned from COVID. This collection of stories was fascinating to me, as Dr. Klein unpacked so many messages and meanings that were not at all clear upon a first reading, and I think that it really gave me a greater appreciation for the “detective work” that can happen within the English major. As mentioned, the semester in which I read these stories was also important to me, as it was a time of navigating the great change of moving back onto campus, while still attending virtual classes. To me it represents growth and the ability to find enjoyment in reading and classwork even under the most extenuating of circumstances.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
This book changed my life, because the person who made me read it, Dr. Anne Boyle, badgered me into becoming a writing minor. In Writing 111, we read “Seeing”, a chapter from this book. I hated it. Then, I read it again, and I couldn’t stop thinking of it. Dillard’s voice is so peculiar, so transformative, so unique that it just stays in your head for days. She and Dr. Boyle captivated me after I read this piece, and have inspired me to hone my own voice in writing each and every day.
The Beetle by Richard Marsh
The Beetle reminded me of my love for Gothic literature. Not only does this story combine the supernatural with horror and mystery, it also prompts thought about Imperialism, gender roles, and discrimination especially since it takes place in 19th century London. It’s a story full of transformations and uncertainty that kept me questioning and thinking long after I finished reading. I was struck by the way Marsh builds suspense through alternating narrators and by preying on the readers’ senses. In the course of my own writing journey, I’ve taken to writing my own Gothic-like supernatural horror stories. You know how it goes, write what you love to read, and I definitely think The Beetle has played a role in shaping my own creative writing journey. Besides, The Beetle once outsold Bram Stoker’s Dracula and that’s saying something.