Maureen Downey, AJC, October 13, 2019
A group of white students at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro burned a book Wednesday night by a visiting Latina author and then assailed her on social media, igniting a firestorm that shows no sign of dying down.
The burning of “Make Your Home Among Strangers” is offensive and indefensible. It’s also inexplicable given that Jennine Capó Crucet’s acclaimed 2015 novel about a first generation Cuban-American finding her place on a predominantly white campus offers universal themes that should resonate with students.
Instead, during Crucet’s appearance on campus, a student criticized the author over her comments on white privilege and asked why she was even at Georgia Southern. A freshman later recorded a group gleefully burning Crucet’s book in a campus grill. You can see the video here on AJC.com.
Faculty at Georgia Southern are trying to explain the purpose, including this statement from the Department of Writing and Linguistics:
Her book, “Make Your Home Among Strangers,” depicts a young Latina woman’s challenges in navigating the world of higher education at a majority-white, selective college. The barriers that minority students face at majority-white colleges and universities are well documented.
The book was featured in First Year Experience classes. Last night’s discussion with the author devolved into accusations of her demonstrating racism against white people. Some students burned copies of Crucet’s book on campus. We assert that destructive and threatening acts do not reflect the values of Georgia Southern University.
In a statement to the George-Anne, the Georgia Southern student newspaper, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Executive Board wrote:
On behalf of the WGSS Program and it supporters, we apologize to you, Jennine Capó Crucet, that this was your experience on our campus. We value and welcome the work you do and support immigrants and migrants of all kinds and we work alongside you to dismantle white supremacy. The actions of these students have brought much shame on our university community.
Both the Georgia Southern student government and the history department are organizing events this week in response to the book burning.
Corinna Zeltsman, assistant professor of history, one of the key organizers of the event, said that the event was designed to help students understand the magnitude of book-burning. “We organized this teach-in event to help students understand book burning as a historical phenomenon that has occurred in different times and places around the world, often in association with climates of censorship, intolerance and violence,” she said. “The circumstances surrounding the book burning that took place on campus are unique to our particular time and place.”