Agnes Reads for Fall 2013:
The Starboard Sea
by Amber Dermont
About the Book
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 published 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. She is currently on leave teaching at Rice University for one year.
Your Required Summer Reading
Your fellow entering students, as well as faculty, staff and students on campus and Agnes Scott alumnae around the country, will participate in this Agnes Reads experience. Enrolled students are asked to purchase a copy of The Starboard Sea this summer, and create a response to the book based on prompts developed by the Agnes Reads Committee. Your response may take the form of an essay, memoir, blog, poem, photographic essay, musical composition, painting or drawing. Responses to the book must be submitted by Monday, August 5, 2013 via the web form. For responses that are not written, a brief abstract describing your project should be submitted, and the project should be brought with you when you arrive on campus. Special events showcasing responses to the read will take place during orientation.
We also invite you to visit our Agnes Reads Program blog, hosted by Erica Hardy, Access Services Librarian, and Naylene Felt, Associate Director of Alumnae Relations, where you can read about the book and leave your own comment. In addition, the committee has prepared a research guide that includes an author profile, reviews and information about major events in the book.
Past first-year books at Agnes Scott College have included The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer, Outcasts United by Warren St. John, Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman, The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and American Woman by Susan Choi.
Casey Long, Co-chair of the Agnes Reads Committee, is your current contact for the Agnes Reads. She can be contacted at email@example.com.