The 2021 seniors from Wake Forest’s Sigma Omega chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society, will be the third 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.
Below are some of the selections made by our 2021 Sigma Tau Delta graduates.
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare was one of my favorite classes I took at Wake Forest and The Merchant of Venice was easily my favorite play we read. For starters, as an English and Religion double major, I loved studying the ways religion influenced the characters in this play and observing the cultural and sociological dimensions of Judaism and Christianity that appear in this text. Beyond that, Portia is one of the most incredible women in all of Shakespeare. She outsmarts all the men around her and finds a way to create the kind of life she wants for herself and protect those she loves all while remaining faithful. As I leave Wake Forest, I hope to be a woman like Portia out in the great big world. I am happy to leave the English Department knowing that students for years to come will continue to find stories that resonate with them the way this one did with me.
Seductive Poison by Deborah Layton, Kathe Mazur, et al
This is one of the books I read during my second semester at Wake, in my WRI 111. I remember enjoying it wholeheartedly and not being able to put it down, which was such a change from every “required reading” I had had to do before. I think it also opened my eyes to how easy it would be to become part of a cult accidentally. I just loved this book and looking back it feels pivotal for me.
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
Throughout my undergraduate English career, The Mill on the Floss has been a part of all the large moments of my English experience. My freshman year, it was the novel that first convinced me to be an English major and my senior year, it was a part of my honors thesis on George Eliot. Therefore, every time I see The Mill on the Floss, I cannot help but flip through and appreciate Eliot’s ability to capture the nuances of human experience and emotion.
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
This book of prose poetry or lyric essays inspired me to find the extraordinary in the ordinary and find new meanings in everyday life. Reading this book was like looking in a mirror, as I had never felt more seen than to read a woman’s work that mimicked my own thinking patterns. This book completely changed the way I see color and I hope it inspires everyone else who reads it.
Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald
Centered around the Holocaust, Sebald’s work creatively offered a tangible history for all Jewish people who lost their physical connections to the world as a result of this hateful genocide. He works to quantify and comprehend the varying stratums of loss that Holocaust victims, survivors, and descendants experience. Sebald’s story serves as a kind of tribute to and a memorialization of the enduring loss by combining Austerlitz’s agonizing but fictional search narrative with the persistently present photographic evidence. As someone who has grown up Jewish, this kind of magnificent project makes me proud of the work that authors and artists alike are doing to ensure that these histories are never lost nor forgotten.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
This book was actually the first I ever read as an official Wake Forest student. While not assigned as part of a class within the English department, I read this book so I could participate in a discussion group with fellow incoming freshmen during orientation week. The group discussion that we had about the book made me realize how much can be learned from one’s peers—this was my first real introduction to the power of active listening and productive group discussion, which are two of my all-time favorite parts of English classes.
The book itself taught me that there is much more to most phenomena and most individuals than meets the eye. The stories within its pages taught me that “success” as we commonly define it is not all that simple, and that its complexities can be very rewarding to untangle. Even more so, Gladwell demonstrated through these stories of success how we can look toward history to better understand the present moment — perhaps even to predict what new innovations could soon make their way into our society.
This book gave me a framework to dream big, and I hope that it can do the same for you.
Paradise by Toni Morrison
I read this book in Chris Brown’s Toni Morrison class, and it touched me in ways a book has never done before. It is the first novel I read that somehow encapsulates the tragic and magical nature of being a woman in this world. This is the first book I would recommend to anyone wanting to experience the power of Toni Morrison.
Dubliners by James Joyce
I have been fortunate enough to read this book a number of times during my time at Wake Forest. Each time I read Dubliners not only did the stories capture my attention and imagination, but I was able to learn something new and make different connections that I hadn’t before. Dubliners taught me the importance of rereading since I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the author’s meaning as well as learn and appreciate that there is more than one interpretation to a work.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
I have read Hamlet in a few of my English classes and have loved it more and more each time. I was even lucky enough to watch it performed live at The Globe in London a few years ago!
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I read this book in my freshman year divisional English class and it is a book that has stuck with me through my college experience. I found the story so interesting and also really enjoyed analyzing the different parts of the story. It was the book that got me excited to be an English major!
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
I read this book while studying abroad in Venice my sophomore fall with Dr. Jeff Holdridge. It’s a beautifully poetic book that follows Marco Polo as he describes, to the emperor Kublai Khan, all the cities he explores in his vast empire. In these cities’ imaginative descriptions, Marco Polo meditates on how places reflect human experience. I read this book during a semester I had the opportunity to travel myself to different cities all over Europe, and I found myself reflecting on these cities in the same way Marco Polo reflects on his travels. It’s moving how Calvino challenges his readers to imagine how places are interwoven with our experiences within them, and I’ve considered that deeply now as I prepare to leave Wake Forest.
The Moths and Other Stories by Helena María Viramontes
Throughout my undergraduate career, I have been drawn to my three departments/passions: English, Spanish, and Latin American Studies. I always was actively looking for ways in which these interests could combine in the classroom and that is where one of my favorite English courses, Chicano literature, came into play. It is a beautiful exploration of language, identity, and literature. I chose the short story form so that even those who are passing have the opportunity to read a piece in completion (it is also the form I am personally drawn to as a creator). Overall, works such as these show that the boundaries between departments (and even nations) is a construct waiting to be crossed.