Book Club Focuses on ‘Year of Latin America’

Photo by Giancarlo Sepulveda

The Ramapo library, in conjunction with the Roukema Center and the Center for Student Involvement, has started a book club as part of the Year of Latin America at Ramapo College. Sign ups for next semester’s book, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” started on Monday in the Fishbowl.

The book club was started this semester, with a book entitled “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz. “It’s a coming-of-age story about two Mexican-American boys growing up in Texas in the late '80s,” said Ramapo librarian Samantha Wittenberg. Wittenberg also wanted to highlight the discussions that are also a part of program: “We have librarians, students, staff and faculty attending our meetings, and we’re very happy with the variety of views people are bringing to the discussions.”

As an accompaniment to the program, other events such as poetry readings are being planned throughout the semester. “Another event that we are planning is a poetry reading in April, which is National Poetry Month,” said Wittenberg. “We want to set up an event where people can either read a translated poem or the original poem in Spanish.”

Next semester’s book, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” has a special significance for the Ramapo community. “We wanted to choose something that would be different from our last book and what’s great about this title is that it has the New Jersey connection,” said Wittenberg. “It’s about a boy growing up in Paterson, New Jersey, but it also deals with family history in the Dominican Republic.”

This past Monday, at the Celebramos Dia de Los Muertos table in the Fishbowl, sign up for next semester’s book club was well under way: “We had 15 copies of each book for the fall and spring. Free copies went to students first. We also had some additional faculty and staff sign up for both book clubs, so our numbers are closer to 20,” said Wittenberg. Wittenberg commented that 20 is a “nice number” for a book club, because it “allows for everyone who attends to have a chance to talk.”

Wittenberg believes that this program can enrich the Ramapo community. “For one, it’s a nice experience to have a group of students, staff and faculty all together at once having a discussion,” she said. “Everyone can bring their own unique experiences to the meetings. The book club’s Latin American theme gives us all the opportunity to have an enriching cultural experience, allowing us to travel to different places and step into the lives of people who are very different to us.” Wittenberg went on to say that it “supports the College’s mission pillar of intercultural/international perspective.”

If students are interested in signing up, they can send an email to either Katie Cohen at or Samantha Wittenberg at Meetings will be taking place on the first Monday of each month next semester. The program is hoping to continue on with each international themed year recognized by the College. Next year’s international theme will be Sub-Saharan Africa.