Four years ago, Peter Schmidt, Chair of the Warren County Community College Board of Trustees, suggested to Dr. Will Austin, President of the college, that WCCC offer a Common Experience program in which students and staff engage across the curriculum with one book for the semester, culminating in an afternoon and evening event featuring that book’s author.
The program has turned out to be much more successful more quickly than anyone predicted. On April 14, WCCC will present its third Common Experience Culminating Event, featuring the nationally renowned author Barbara Ehrenreich and her contemporary classic, “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” which was recently reissued in a 10th anniversary edition (the version the college has adopted for use in its classes).
The events on April 14th include an afternoon interview and Q&A session with students, and then an evening reading, followed by another Q&A. Events are free and open to the public. The reading, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in room E206, will be followed by a book signing. Books will be available for purchase at the reading.
“I am happy with the success of The Common Experience so far,” said BJ Ward, Creative Writing Professor and coordinator of the college’s Visiting Authors Series, and the person who was tasked with making the Common Experience happen. “We invited our professors to participate with their students and it’s been very well received.”
“The Common Experience has exceeded our goals,” added Dr. Austin. “It’s become a program that everybody – students, professors, staff, and the public – all look forward to.”
“It was an idea that I thought would work and I am so happy that it has,” noted Schmidt. “The caliber of authors that we have been able to bring to Warren County is really amazing.”
The first year WCCC hosted Kevin Powers, author of the best-selling “Yellow Birds,” and last year, Alice Goffman, whose “On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City” explores how the expansion of America’s criminal-justice system has reshaped life for impoverished black families, especially in urban settings. Next year’s Common Experience author will be Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love.” Her newest book, “Big Magic,” about the virtue of creativity, will be the focus of the Common Experience.
Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed” examines life living on a minimum wage. For her research, Ehrenreich traveled around the country employed in various minimum wage type jobs such as maid, waitress, and at a box store. “Nickel and Dimed” plunged her into the nascent living wage movement full throttle, traveling to union rallies, picket lines, and organizing meetings around the country. She became comfortable addressing crowds through a bull horn, with no notes at all, got arrested at a protest with Yale workers, joined picket lines with hotel workers in Santa Monica and janitors in Miami, leafleted for a living wage in Charlottesville and marched with ACORN in Michigan.
Ehrenreich is not a novice writer by any stretch. She is the author of 21 books, including The New York Times best sellers “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” (2001) and “Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America” (2010).
Ehrenreich is also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, Harpers, The Progressive magazine, and Time magazine, and has appeared on Oprah, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and The Joy Behar Show, to name a few.
Each of Ehrenreich’s books changed her life in important and unexpected ways. Curiosity continues to pull Ehrenreich in different directions. She published “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy,” a scholarly book about festivities and ecstatic rituals. Her New York Times best seller, “Bright-Sided,” describes what she calls “the cult of cheerfulness,” which requires Americans to “think positively” rather than to take positive action for change and calls for an urgent call for a new commitment to realism.
Article updated 3/23 to correct date of event.