One book campaign returns to Villanova

Erica Dolson

In what is becoming an annual tradition on Villanova’s campus, the University’s One Book Villanova committee is ready to launch this year’s selection, “Blood Done Sign My Name,” by Timothy Tyson.

“Blood Done Sign My Name” is a non-fiction work that explores issues of race relations and white privilege.

The novel is set in Oxford in 1970 and concerns the lynching of a young, black Vietnam veteran and the aftermath. Author Timothy Tyson was living in Oxford at the time of the lynching and had a unique point of view as the son of the preacher of the town’s all-white Methodist church. In addition to focusing on the historical period of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, Tyson reflects on his experience with the incident and how it shaped and changed him as a person.

“The task of the One Book committee this year will be to encourage the Villanova community to reflect on how these events that took place in the not-so-distant past still have resonance in today’s society in general and on Villanova’s campus specifically,” said Tom Mogan, director of student development, “the committee hopes that Tyson’s work will allow us all to reflect on how our experiences shape our character and influence our future actions and ambitions.”

The One Book committee, which is chaired by Mogan, Terry Nance of the center for multicultural affairs and Joe Lucia, chose “Blood Done Sign My Name” from over 50 nominations submitted by Villanova students, faculty and staff. After reviewing a few of the nominations in depth, the committee unanimously chose Tyson’s novel.

“I believe that the timing of this book is excellent as Father Peter’s inauguration speech challenged us to become an even more welcoming and diverse community that seeks truth,” Mogan said.

Mogan worries that students may dismiss these themes of racism as characteristic of only the south or of a “distant time and place.” He hopes that students will read this novel and realize that events like this occur all over the world and that these themes and lessons are valuable to Villanovans.

“As Villanova becomes a more diverse campus, it’s important that we examine issues of diversity and culture in today’s society,” Mogan said.

Villanova’s One Book program began last year with “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini. Mogan’s co-chairs Nance and Lucia had heard about community book programs in other parts of the country and thought such a program could raise the “intellectual climate” at Villanova. Mogan was brought in to engage the student body.

“I think that what makes our program truly unique is that we try to engage the whole community,” said Mogan. “The students are an integral part of this program.” He added that Villanova is one of the only universities to purchase copies of the book for the entire student body.

Distribution of the books begins today and will last until next week in residence halls and for off-campus students. The official launch will feature Bruce Pollack-Johnson of Villanova’s math department, who will be playing a mix of original and cover songs from the Civil Rights Movement. As an incentive, the One Book committee is giving a free T-shirt to the first 200 off-campus students who pick up their books.

Throughout the year, there will be several events sponsored by the One Book program, including periodic book discussions and a visit by author Timothy Tyson in January. In an effort to involve Villanova parents, One Book Villanova is hosting a dinner, lecture and a Parents Book Club Discussion this weekend. Finally, on Sept. 21, CAT is sponsoring “Trading Places: Black/White.” This event will feature two cast members of the popular FX show, “Black/White,” who will discuss their experiences on this show in conjunction with the themes of “Blood Done Sign My Name.”