The 2024 Common Read: “I Never Thought of It That Way”

Mount Holyoke College’s 2024 Common Read is “I Never Thought of It That Way,” a timely personal guide to the front lines of a crisis that threatens America — broken conversations among confounded people.

Mount Holyoke College’s 2024 Common Read selection is “I Never Thought of It That Way,” a personal guide to having fearlessly curious conversations in what many consider dangerously divided times.

Author and journalist Mónica Guzmán wrote the book after seeing how politics can divide a nation. Guzmán set out to discover what blinds voters to other perspectives and found that curiosity is an underused tool.

Each year, when the Common Read Committee looks for a publication, its top priority is finding one that will lead to thoughtful discussions on campus. According to Jennifer Jacoby, associate professor of psychology and education and director of first-year seminars, the 2024 Common Read’s focus on politics fits right in with this year’s United States presidential election.

“Whenever we start discussing potential Common Reads, we always ask each other what we think our community will be looking to talk about in the coming year. With an election cycle on the horizon — not just in the U.S. but in many global communities — we knew that a book that could help frame our political conversations would be relevant for Mount Holyoke in 2024-2025,” Jacoby said. “Guzmán’s book quickly emerged in our conversations as a front-runner for our next Common Read within this context.”

Jacoby also said that “I Never Thought of It That Way” will be a catalyst for tough conversations that could help the campus community come together.

“The book is engaging and easy to digest from the start. It also offers really practical ideas for individuals and communities who want to engage around tough topics and are also willing to do the work of listening to each other,” she said. “I’m excited to see how Mount Holyoke uses this book to increase our compassion for listening to views that we don’t necessarily share but hope to understand.”

In “I Never Thought of It That Way,” Guzmán draws insights from cross-partisan conversations she’s had, organized or witnessed on social media, on the road across the U.S. and during election night fights between her family members.

Marcella Runell, vice president for student life and dean of students, sees the book as a timely conversation starter.

“Guzmán’s book is the perfect Common Read for this moment and for our community. Her work is all about challenging ourselves to engage in difficult conversations across opposing views, really leaning into relationships and getting curious about people,” Runell said.

“One of her biggest questions is… ‘What am I missing?’ I love this question!” Runell added. “This selection really ties into our mission of an intellectually adventurous environment while providing hands-on examples of how we can improve our communication between and among groups.”

Barbara Chen ’25, from Beijing, China, one of three students to serve on the Common Read Committee, hopes “I Never Thought of It That Way” will spark dialogue on campus.

“This year’s Common Read helps us to understand the complexity that we’re living in now and tries to have us have conversations with different groups,” Chen said. “I hope people at Mount Holyoke can enjoy the book and can introduce the book to others to help have meaningful conversations.”

Alicia Erwin, assistant vice president for student life, strategic operations, said that “I Never Thought of It That Way” encourages its readers to become better communicators.

“Guzmán’s book is the exact right selection for this coming academic year. It challenges the reader to think about how we want to be in relationship with others, gives tools for engaging in conversation across different and opposing viewpoints and centers curiosity and respect — two values that I think are core to the mission Mount Holyoke strives for,” Erwin said.

The Common Read program, which began in 2000 as part of the College’s annual Orientation, is available to prospective and current students, faculty, staff and alums.

Discussions about the Common Read selection provide new students with their first intellectual dialogue based on a shared text. These discussions take place throughout the academic year. They build community and give students a foundation to build on as they learn to express themselves about complex issues.

Guzmán will be coming to Mount Holyoke’s campus the week of November 18, and will be spending a full day connecting with students, faculty, and staff. The visit will close with a community wide event. More information will be in the College’s calendar as the event nears.

Mónica Guzmán is senior fellow for public practice at Braver Angels; host of A Braver Way podcast; and founder and CEO of Reclaim Curiosity. She was a 2019 fellow at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, and a 2016 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. In 2023 she was the inaugural McGurn Fellow at the University of Florida, working with researchers at the UF College of Journalism and Communications and beyond to better understand ways to employ techniques described in her book to boost understanding. A Mexican immigrant, Latina and dual US/Mexico citizen, she lives in Seattle with her husband and two kids and is the proud liberal daughter of conservative parents.

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