Campus Community Book Project centers around “The Book of Joy”

Campus Community Book Project centers around “The Book of Joy”

Photo Credits: JAMIE CHEN / AGGIE

The Book Project promotes dialogue, community building

The Campus Community Book Project, founded in 2002 as a response to the divisiveness caused by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was established with the goal of promoting dialogue and community values among students, staff, faculty and community members of the Davis and Sacramento areas.

The Campus Community Book Project is composed of different committees and councils. The Campus Council for Community and Diversity, an on campus organization, chooses a theme every two years that tackles an idea they believe is relevant at the time. The Campus Community Book Project Selection Committee reviews multiple books and ultimately recommends one book that best represents that concept. The Program and Planning Committee then organizes events to reinforce the theme.

“Usually we have found that the theme is extremely relevant, and it’s almost like the council has a crystal ball,” said Megan Macklin, program manager at the Office of Community Relations.

The theme for this year is community building.

“[Community building] was selected in March or April 2017, a few months after the election, amidst a time of great division on campus, in our community, in our country,” Macklin said. “So the council, in selecting the theme of community building, really wanted an uplifting, positive, optimistic theme, and so that’s the one they came up with.”

This year’s book is “The Book of Joy” by Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, along with Douglas Abrams.

“The Selection Committee, in recommending ‘The Book of Joy’ really felt strongly about the message of dialogue,” Macklin said.”[They felt strongly] about communication across difference, about realizing and celebrating shared humanity, about finding joy in that shared humanity.

“The Book of Joy” looks back on the long years that Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu endured in exile and the violence of oppression. They converse together about finding joy despite life’s suffering.

“I’m someone who likes to get concrete messages out of books and things that I can bear to my life,” Macklin said. “I think the most important message from this book that I got, and it’s a message you hear a lot and is certainly not unique to this book, but the fact that you really can only control how you react to things. And I think that that’s such an empowering statement, and there are specific practices that are shared in the book that are related to that lesson.”

Through the Programing Planning Committee, The Book Project hosts many events during the year, including workshops, lectures, film screenings, panel discussions, library exhibits, service opportunities, book discussions, art exhibits and performances. Several of the events are highly interactive. For example, a Tibetan meditation workshop was held in October, and a Yoga-Informed Career Exploration for Students will be held in April. Most events are free and open to the public, and the full schedule is available on the Book Project website.

On Feb. 4, Douglas Abrams, co-author of “The Book of Joy,” will speak at UC Davis in Jackson Hall. He will share insight from the weeklong conversation he facilitated between Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu as well as an exclusive video of the historical meeting. From 4 to 5 p.m., there will be a forum that is free and open to the public. The main event starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be purchased on the Mondavi Center website.

Tenzing Thinley, a Davis community member, recently became involved with the Book Project.

“I used to be a student of Dalai Lama, I had been [for] many, many years,” Thinley said. “I also know about Desmond Tutu because he’s a very close friend with Dalai Lama, so that’s why I’m very interested in the Book Project.”

He has helped facilitate several events this year, including a film screening of “The Cup” (1999).

“This film [was] directed by a Tibetan monk,” Thinley said. “It’s really unusual, monks are more involved in the spiritual, but somehow [in] this modern time, the monks [are] taking advantage of modern technologies. It’s a really fun movie. It tells the story about Tibetan refugees in India.”

Karma Waltonen, a continuing lecturer at UC Davis, has been involved with the Book Project for about ten years. On Jan. 31, she will perform a stand-up routine called “Chronic Pain: A Comedy” at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in Sacramento.

“[The routine] puts together a couple of different aspects of my identity, so [while] I am a stand-up comic, I’m also a chronic pain patient,” Waltonen said. “So this is literally my narrative about my pain but done in a comic way, so it brings all of those things together and is able to tell a particular story but in a way that isn’t depressing.”

Waltonen hopes more faculty will teach the Book Project’s chosen books as part of their curriculum, as she does in her workload writing classes. Students who are able to read the book and attend events find participation rewarding.

“The students who do get to go to those events and talk to the different speakers and authors, they always tell me it was such a valuable experience, and that they’re glad that I encouraged them to do it because they wouldn’t have gone if they had just seen a poster,” Waltonen said.

Besides participating in events, there are many ways for students to get involved in the Book Project. For starters, students are welcome to join the Program Planning and Selection Committees.

“The only caveat is that the bulk of their work is during the summer months, but we’ve been setting up phone calls during the meetings for people to call in,” Macklin said. “There’s an opportunity to contribute on a Google Doc. We really try to make remote participation available.”

Students can also volunteer as program contributors or presenters. Anyone interested in more information about getting involved can contact Macklin.

The theme for the 2019-20 Campus Community Book Project is violence, gun violence specifically. The featured book will be announced soon.

Written By: Cheyenne Wiseman —arts@theaggie.org