Make Your Home Among Strangers was a phenomenal addition to the the annual Summer Common Reading program at Kalamazoo College! Jennine’s visit to campus was extraordinary. She was funny, personable, and made such a positive connection with the students. During her talks she was candid about her work, and provided excellent insights. The students enjoyed having her read her work, and I’ve never seen students so eager to engage with the author during the book signing. She took time and care with every student who approached her throughout her visit. Lizet’s story is one that is timely not only for students in transition, but also when we consider the bigger picture of where we are as a country. We could have not chosen a better book and a more engaging, delightful author to bring to campus. At Kalamazoo College we always choose a book that is recent, has literary merit and value, addresses coming of age, and raises issues. Make Your Home Among Strangers was the perfect selection on all counts. We sent the book to all incoming first-years during the summer prior to Orientation, and they submitted a short reflection. During Orientation we hosted Ms. Capó Crucet for a two-day visit during which she met with small group discussion leaders, had a reading and book signing, had dinner with a small group of students and faculty, and the next day she talked about her work with students and answered their questions at a colloquium that followed small group discussions. It was a full visit and Ms. Capó Crucet’s appearance was integral to the success of the SCR program.
Jennine’s talk was challenging, insightful, and moving. The most important piece of her talk for me was the way that she directly addressed our students of color and encouraged them to resist allowing themselves to be tokenized or exploited for the sake of the institution. Our college president was there, and she took Jennine’s comments to heart and has charged offices on campus to be more mindful about how they employ photographs of our students in marketing materials. Later in the afternoon, Jennine met with students in one of our “access/opportunity” programs, the Cooperman Program, that brings students from Essex county to TCNJ with full scholarship support. She encouraged them—and the faculty in attendance—to be honest about our reasons for being at TCNJ. I think that it meant a great deal for our students to hear about the economic reasons why faculty were teaching at our institution. I think it brought all of us into the same group in a way that other discussion leaders’ efforts had not.