Common Reading 2020 novel tackles climate change

Woman reading book

A novel that chronicles the life of a family facing the threats of a changing climate has been chosen as the Common Reading selection for the coming year.

As part of its effort to engage University of Oregon students, faculty members, administrators and community members in a dialogue about global climate change, the UO Common Reading selection committee has chosen “Clade,” by James Bradley, for the 2020-21 academic year book.

The novel follows the family of Adam Leith, a climatologist and the book’s main character, over generations. The story demonstrates how a family living in climate instability and uncertainty continues to pursue learning and innovation, expresses love and compassion, and builds futures despite the obstacles it faces.

An Australian writer, editor and award-winning critic, Bradley has written several pieces dealing with climate change as a part of the narrative, with “Clade” tackling climate change, economic instability and social unrest. Other themes in the novel include immigrant rights, disease and public health, extinction of species, technology, autism and disability, and emotional exploitation.

Despite the variety of serious subjects tackled, the 21-member Common Reading selection committee felt the narrative fit the biannual Common Reading theme of “Climate Change: Justice & Resilience” in a manner that inspires hope.

Willow Hamilton, the First-Year Interest Group adviser and a member of the selection committee, said she hopes students will enjoy the novel and find it as compelling as she did.

“I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading it; it’s an engaging read,” Hamilton said. “I hope students will read the book and leave not feeling so overwhelmed with being a changemaker and feel empowered to address climate change. I want them to be inspired and believe there’s something they can do and it’s not an insurmountable problem.”

Bradley will visit the UO in January 2021 as part of UO Common Reading. Programming leading to and surrounding Bradley’s visit will provide opportunities for community-building among new students and introduce them to intellectual inquiry and discussion at the collegiate level.

All incoming, first-year students are given a copy of the Common Reading book during IntroDUCKtion or before the start of the fall term. A variety of classes and groups from across campus participate in UO Common Reading, which is housed in the Division of Undergraduate Education and Student Success.

Program director Julie Voelker-Morris said the biannual theme and next year’s novel will provide another vehicle to highlight “the outstanding research and teaching of UO faculty who analyze and publish on issues of climate change affecting the earth, its flora, fauna and human inhabitants.”

“Faculty interested in using ‘Clade’ as part of a course or program can request a copy of the book on the Common Reading website,” Voelker-Morris said. “We are enthusiastic about the collaborative opportunities this novel will provide for individuals across campus to tackle this topic from various perspectives.”

—By Kimberly Lamke Calderon, University Communications