The Agnes Reads Committee is proud to announce that the 2013 Agnes Reads book is The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont, the Charles Loridans Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Agnes Scott College. This summer all incoming students will read and submit reflections on this work. In October, Agnes Scott College Alumnae book clubs across the nation will read The Starboard Sea for Scottie Book Month. Keep an eye on the Agnes Reads blog and Facebook site to track the response of Agnes Scott readers to this novel!
Published in 2012, this compelling coming-of-age novel was greeted as a major literary event by lead reviewers in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other national publications. It was also chosen as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012 by the editors of the New York Times Book Review. Writing in the New York Times, Janet Maslin called it “…a rich, quietly artful novel that is bound for deep water, with questions of beauty, power and spiritual navigation as its main concerns.” And writing in the New York Times Book Review, Eleanor Henderson compares The Starboard Sea to one of the classics of American fiction, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: “Jason is a fiercely likable first-person narrator and romantic hero: earnest, conflicted, one broken nose away from handsome. Think of an 18-year-old Nick Carraway, observing the terrible things teenagers do for one another.” As John Wilwol has written in the Washington Post, the novel is unflinching in its treatment of race. Through the character of Chester Baldwin, a black student who chose Bellingham Prep School because of its top-ranked tennis team, Dermont shows that money can’t buy pedigree.
In addition to showcasing a novel by one of the college’s own professors, the Agnes Reads Committee believes the novel explores issues confronting every young person making the transition from adolescence to young adulthood and looking ahead to college. It raises questions about personal integrity, sexual identity, race and moral responsibility in ways that speak directly to the Agnes Scott mission, which calls on young women to “engage the social and intellectual challenges of their times.” For a community that believes in the importance of living honorably, this book is a reminder of the dangers of straying from this vision—and the moral consequences of doing so.
Professor Dermont is also the author of the recently released short story collection Damage Control. She is the recipient of a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts as well as fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Dermont’s work has appeared in the anthologies Best New American Voices, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, as well as numerous journals including Tin House, American Short Fiction, and Crazyhorse. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Vassar College, a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Houston.
In an interview with blogger AV Johnson, Professor Dermont calls Agnes Scott “an absolute gem of a school.” As a creative writing professor, she encourages her students to “develop their own intuition, their own inner critic and voice.” Agnes Reads invites the campus community to discover the compelling characters, issues, and themes in The Starboard Sea and to reflect on its relevance to the social and intellectual challenges of our times.