The Common Reading Program at Appalachian State is excited to announce the 2023-24 book selection: John Elder Robison’s Be Different: My Adventures with Asperger’s and My Advice for Fellow Aspergians, Misfits, Families, and Teachers. Robison is the Neurodiversity Scholar in Residence at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, and one of the founders of the Neurodiversity Program at the school—one of the first of its kind at a major American university. He teaches neurodiversity at the Williamsburg campus and at the Washington DC continuing ed facility.
As stated on the publisher’s website, “in Be Different, the New York Times bestselling author of Look Me in the Eye shares a new batch of endearing stories about his childhood, adolescence, and young adult years, giving the reader a rare window into the Autistic mind” and offering “practical advice for anyone who feels ‘different’ on how to improve the weak communication and social skills that keep so many people from taking full advantage of their often remarkable gifts.”
With a style that is engaging and honest, personal and practical, Robison writes from the perspective of a neurodiverse individual—he coined and prefers the term “nypical”—one who shares his personal insights and lessons learned as he continues his advocacy for neurodiversity and autism.
Dr. Don Presnell, Director of the Common Reading Program, says that the book will speak to readers from all backgrounds, as it will really challenge and change readers’ perspectives about how we all communicate: “The book is a real-world read that uses the lens of neurodiversity to help us better understand others as well as ourselves. It helps us practice the fourth major goal of General Education at Appalachian: understanding responsibilities of community membership.”
Each academic year, the Common Reading Program committee selects a book that will promote and guide intellectual, interdisciplinary interactions and discussions between all incoming first-year and transfer students, who receive a copy of the book during their Orientation sessions. Further, we encourage and collaborate with faculty across the University to integrate the book into their curricula and disciplines so that all App State students can participate in and share common reading and intellectual experiences.
The year-long Common Reading experience will include a variety of Be Different-related activities, speakers, and events beginning in mid-September, when we will bring author John Elder Robison to campus to share his work and insights. Details will be made available as events are finalized. Check the Common Reading website for updates and other information.
The Common Reading Program is a unit within Appalachian’s University College, which consists of the University’s integrated general education curriculum, academic support services, residential learning communities, and co-curricular programming – all designed to support the work of students both inside and outside of the classroom.