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Agnes Reads for 2014-2015:

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

This blog is on temporary hiatus.  For information about Agnes Reads for 2014-2015, please visit the website and follow our Facebook page or Google Plus page.

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You learn more about yourself when you’re afraid” (Dermont 70).

Toes gripping a wooden floor,
ankles carried high,
trembling in my kitchen
in the middle of the night.

Phantom roaches scuttle by
and set my heart to pounding—
my stomach growls and grabs my wrist
and leads me to the pantry.

Spiders perch like gargoyles
in the corner of the room,
arms wide and inviting,
casting shadows in the gloom.

I stiffen like a doe who hears
the cocking of a gun—
I reach for a granola bar,
my features white and drawn.

They say you learn about yourself
the most when you’re afraid
but I steadfastly disagree—
fear eats our hearts away.

Like insects bite into our skin
and seas devour the shore
fear strips away the best of us,
and takes a little more

each time she visits us—
her ugly spider-arms
clutching at my feet in bed—
a grasp as soft as thorns.

The dying sailor did not learn
his own identity
when his fear grasped him by the lungs
and drowned him in the sea—

the sailor truly knew himself
the very night before
when his wife waved to see him off,
her smile wide as the shore.

~ Charlee Amason ’17

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Beloved creative writing professor Amber Dermont returns to Agnes Scott College on Thursday, October 3rd!

  • Time: 1:00pm – 2:00pm
  • Location: Amelia Davis Luchsinger Lounge, Alston Campus Center

All students, faculty, staff, and alumnae are invited.

First year students don’t miss this is an opportunity to meet the author of the 2013 Agnes Reads selection, The Starboard Sea.  Ask questions about your favorite characters, share your thoughts about the book, and learn about how Amber Dermont became a New York Times best selling author.

If there is time, Amber may read from her latest work.  Be sure to bring your book for Amber to sign after the event!

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Amber Dermont speaks with Furious Fiction about The Starboard Sea.


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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.

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Agnes Scott is not a common place.  It is vivacious, energetic and exciting! To reflect the action oriented nature of Agnes Scott College, the Common Read Program is stripping everything common from the program.  From here on out it will be known as…

Agnes Reads!

Let’s grab those books and start reading!

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Fugees on campus!

Director of Teacher Education and Associate Professor Dr. Toby Emert writes to us about the Fugees’ Summer Academic Boot Camp, which takes place on Agnes Scott’s campus for four weeks.

On July 6th, the Fugees rode their bikes five miles from Clarkston to our campus for the first day of a four-week Summer Academic Boot Camp. This is the second year that the Department of Education has partnered with the Fugees to provide them a high-quality summer academic enrichment experience. The Fugees are divided into seven classes, about 10 students per teacher, and they are being asked to do sophisticated thinking and responding in their daily lessons. Their teachers are mostly graduates of the Master of Arts in Teaching program here at ASC, some of whom are working at area high schools and some of whom will be entering their own classrooms for the first time in August.

The curriculum this summer has as its theme “extraordinary stories,” and the students are beginning their literacy work by reading the outstanding children’s picture book, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. This book won the Caldecott Medal for Mordecai Gerstein in 2004 when it was published, and it tells the story of French aerialist Philippe Petit who, incredibly, stretched a cable between the roofs of the Twin Towers when they were being constructed and spent an hour walking back and forth 1300 feet above the streets of New York before he was arrested. The students have been amazed by the story and they have spent the last few mornings discussing the book, learning about the World Trade Center, New York City, the events of 9/11, tightrope walking, and more.

In addition to their morning work, the students also meet for an hour each afternoon in what we call literature circles to discuss a book together.  For the first two weeks of the camp, they are reading Three Cups of Tea, the story of mountain climber Greg Mortenson’s vision to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The students are learning to play specific roles as they read and discuss and, with some practice, they are making real progress.”

Stay tuned for more from Dr. Emert!

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