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Summer Reading: It’s Going To Be Epic

Summer Reading: It’s Going To Be Epic

NMH has adopted a new model for summer reading, designed to make the all-school read a true community experience and build traditions around summer reading. Instead of picking a different all-school read each summer, starting this year students and faculty will read — and then reread — The Odyssey, an epic poem in 24 books that tells the story of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, who wanders for 10 years trying to get home after the Trojan War.

NMH’s Academic Dean Lori Veilleux said the new approach will give students and faculty the opportunity to discuss how their perspectives and understanding change as they return to the story year after year.

“Rereading or reading new parts each year allows students to track their changing perspectives as they grow up at NMH,” she said. “We can dig deeper into one book instead of reinventing the wheel every year.”

Each summer, NMH will focus on one of three sections of the epic and cycle through the remaining books over the next three years. This summer, NMH will read books 1 through 8 of the 2018 translation by Emily Wilson, the first woman to translate The Odyssey into English. 

Veilleux explained there are benefits to rereading a book that is long, in the public domain, and has so many available adaptations and versions that cross languages and cultures. 

“Although it was, for part of its history, co-opted into white Western notions of cannon, The Odyssey doesn’t belong to anyone,” she said. “There is no original; there are only retellings. The story we have today includes riffs on riffs of versions of versions made and remade over centuries. This process continues today in modern retellings and adaptations as new tellers and readers make the story their own, disrupting the problematic categories and notions that others have projected onto the story. We can join this creative human endeavor by engaging with the story NMH style.”

Veilleux said the new approach will also give summer reading a higher profile during orientation in August and throughout the school year, and help the school community build traditions around summer reading. 

For example, orientation week activities may include public readings of The Odyssey set to jazz, piped over afternoon lawn games, or by a bonfire. Other ideas include having beloved community members read selected chapters on WNMH, the campus radio station or having graduating seniors pass down their copies of The Odyssey to younger friends. The story could also be incorporated into recurring campus events such as art exhibits, trivia contests, or poetry recitations.

In addition to the all-school read, a second summer reading book is also assigned by the English department by grade. This year, postgraduates and seniors will read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien; 11th graders will read Passing by Nella Larsen; 10th graders will read The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and 9th grader and ESOL students will read Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya and two poems: “Birches” by Robert Frost and “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop. 

In keeping with NMH’s dedication to meeting students where they are, the school is offering several Zoom sessions over the summer dedicated to The Odyssey. Students can join any of these sessions by signing in with their NMH email address and credentials.

Friday, June 2, 1 pm

Monday, June 19, 7 pm

Thursday, July 28, 8 am

Thursday, Aug. 3, 2 pm

Monday, Aug. 14, 2 pm

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