Common Reading

Welcome to the SMU Common Reading Program!  The Common Reading Program is an established start-of-school tradition at SMU.  As the incoming class you will receive the book during the summer at AARO and should read it before you arrive for the start of the fall semester.  Faculty, staff, and returning SMU students have already begun reading and discussing the book in preparation for small-group conversations you will participate in before Rotunda Passage and Opening Convocation.  Your first-year writing courses will use the book as part of your curriculum for the fall semester.  

We Need New Names

NoViolet Bulawayo

The Story

We Need New Names follows a spunky ten-year old suffering extreme poverty in Zimbabwe in her journey to America. The blissful ignorance of childhood is ripped from young Darling’s hands as she worries for her home country and safety of her loved ones. With the move she was able to say goodbye to having to steal food and fear of her home being destroyed, but she also lost a piece of who she was and the country she was raised in. She struggles to adapt to the “American way”, and we watch as who she once was begins to evaporate.

Read more about this incredible story.

The Author

NoViolet BulawayoNoViolet Bulawayo was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She earned her MFA at Cornell University, and is now a Wagner Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She earned a bachelors degree at Texas A&M, and a Master’s Degree from Southern Methodist University. She is the first Zimbabwean to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (for her first novel, We Need New Names).

Read more about this fascinating author!


Be sure to check out our resources page where you will find helpful information on this year's common reading. We have including web resources to help you learn more about poverty and income level statistics, a number of videos and audio to help you explore the story.

Upcoming Events

August 24th | 2-3pm

First-year Common Reading Discussion with Faculty

September 15th | 5pm
Hughes-Trigg Ballroom

Common Reading author and SMU alum NoViolet Bulawayo comes back to SMU to discuss her book, We Need New Names. Bulawayo

Selection Process

Each year the Common Reading book is selected by the Common Reading Selection Committee. The Committee, chaired by Diana Grumbles, Director of SMU's Discernment and Discourse Department, solicits books suggestions from the entire SMU Community.
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