One Book selection ‘Whistling Vivaldi’ focuses on issues of race, stereotypes

Annie Bruce, Reporter

“Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do” has been selected as the book for the 2014-15 One Book One Northwestern program. 

“Whistling Vivaldi,” written by social psychologist Claude Steele, tackles issues of race and the role of stereotypes in society. The book will be mandatory reading for the class of 2018 this summer.

Eugene Lowe, who chairs the book selection committee made up of faculty, students and people previously involved with One Book programming, said the committee learned about a traveling exhibit on race coming to the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in October and felt the book would be an interesting complement. 

“One of the topics that we like to find ways to address in some regular way in the University have to do with issues of race in difference and experience of different students, and in the process of thinking of that, the title of Claude Steele’s ‘Whistling Vivaldi’ came to our attention,” he said.

After members of the committee read the book over Winter Break, they discussed the ability of “Whistling Vivaldi” to translate to additional programming throughout next year. Lowe, a lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies and assistant to the University President, then took the recommendation to President Morton Schapiro for approval in January. 

Associate theatre Prof. Harvey Young, associate chair of the theatre department, was chosen as next year’s One Book faculty chair, which means he will focus on programming and activities related to “Whistling Vivaldi.”

Young said during the past year, about 60 events were held relating to this year’s book, “The Last Hunger Season.” He plans for a similar number of events next year between NU’s Evanston, Chicago and Qatar campuses. The events will range from theater performances to speakers to a visit to the “RACE: Are We So Different?” exhibit at the Holocaust Museum in Skokie, co-sponsored by the YWCA Evanston/North Shore.

Lowe said Young was selected because of his background and ability to look at issues through an artistic lens.

“We wanted someone whose work is deeply engaged in these issues, and I thought it was a particularly interesting opportunity to have someone who comes at these issues from a vantage of theater and performance studies,” Lowe said.

Young was not involved with the book selection process but said he thinks the book is a good choice and hopes it will help ignite important conversations across campus.

“I think that it’s a book that asks us all to think what assumptions we have around race and how stereotypes impact and influence everyday performance and our behaviors,” Young said. “I think it’s a question and it’s a conversation that we don’t often have, and if anything it’s a conversation that people tend to shy away from.”

Young said he wants to makes sure the events are inclusive and help to bring members of the NU community together.

“My big goal, and this is a through line that occurs in Claude Steele’s book, that the way to overcome stereotypes is by having people feel welcome and invited and have a sense of belonging,” Young said. “We’ll have a number of events that bring us all together, not necessarily to talk about stereotypes, but to talk about who we all are and how we all contribute in our own ways to make Northwestern the great place that it is.”

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