California State University, Northridge’s incoming freshman class has been invited to explore what it is like to be a Black woman in America with the 2021-22 common reading book, “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir,” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele.
“When They Call You a Terrorist,” tells the story of Khan-Cullors and how she ultimately came to co-found Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, following the acquittal by a Florida court of George Zimmerman, in the shooting death of unarmed high school student Trayvon Martin.
“The committee selected this book against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic and its glaring health inequities and the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Susanna Eng-Ziskin, director of CSUN’s Freshman Common Reading Program. “The fact that this is a local story, that Khan-Cullors attended a local high school that many of our students attended, made this book even more special and appropriate for CSUN. It addresses serious issues including systemic racism, prejudice, police violence, mental health, incarceration, and more, that explain how she became the artist, organizer, and freedom fighter she is today.”
Each year, the freshman common reading material is chosen by a committee made up of CSUN faculty members, staff, and students. In order for a book to be selected, it must meet the following criteria: range of interdisciplinary context, diverse cultural and social perspectives, promotion of intellectual growth, encouragement of discussion in a variety of courses, and how it addresses significant topics.
In addition to telling Khan-Cullors’ story, “When They Call You a Terrorist” offers insight into Black experiences with America’s criminal justice system.
“I believe it’s important for students to have shared experiences,” Eng-Ziskin said. “I believe our common reading program accomplishes this by bringing a large number of students together collectively through a common text.”
The Freshman Common Reading Program is one of the many ways that CSUN prepares first year and transfer students for a smooth transition via Academic First Year Experiences by providing them with necessities as well as opportunities for success.