2010 Summer Reading Assignment
WHY and HOW did the College choose Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson?
Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson, is the account of how one man has committed his life to improving literacy and building schools for girls in remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, often under the noses of the Taliban. His memoir details his journey from failed mountaineer to friend of Afghani tribal members, and how he has learned of both the special needs and special customs of people in the region. Since he began his project, he has raised money through the Central Asia Institute to build over 80 schools, and has begun a Pennies for Peace project to fill girls' schools with needed materials. Mortenson has been nominated for the 2009 Nobel Peace Price.
The Common Summer Reading group comprised of students, staff, and faculty made this choice because this book will meet several goals of the First-Year Experience. First, our selection was guided by the need to introduce our students and community to this part of the world, currently one of the world's major — and perhaps most important — hot zone. Therefore our students will have the opportunity to learn about the region, the culture, and the history of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to better understand the historical and political circumstances that have given rise to the current conflict. At the same time, Mortenson's story will allow students to experience life on the other side of the world, in a place that is completely different from what we know. Mortenson shows us the faces of the people of Afghanistan, and as he does those people become less foreign and more real to us, allowing us to see how we often take for granted even the simplest of riches of daily life, such as the opportunity to go to school.
Three Cups of Tea will also allow our students to enjoy thoughtful conversations about vocation, in keeping with Lilly Center goals. Greg Mortenson ended up in the region after a failed attempt to scale K2. At the time, he was focused on his own goals, but his life was changed and became more meaningful when he directed his energies toward others. His story shows us how that we can triumph over personal failure, and also how one person can make a large difference, even if that person has, on the surface, few resources.
Finally, Three Cups of Tea as the summer reading provides a complement to the ongoing Afghanistan Service Project of Student Affairs. This project gathers donations of non-perishable items from the College community and sends them to US service personnel in Afghanistan. Our reading of this book will keep all those in the region — indigenous people as well as service personnel — in our minds.