Summer Reading Program Kick-Starts College Experience for Freshmen

This year's selection, “The Devil’s Highway: A True Story,” prepares students for independent study and stimulates ongoing discussion of immigration and border issues.

"The Devil's Highway: A True Story" by Luis Alberto Urrea was a finalist for the Pulitizer Prize.
The beginning of the fall semester is still several days away, but incoming freshmen already have their first homework assignment. As part of this year’s summer reading program, first-year students are asked to read “The Devil’s Highway: A True Story,” by Luis Alberto Urrea. The book follows 26 men who in May 2001 attempted to cross the Mexican border into the United States through the brutal and deadly Arizona desert region known as the Devil’s Highway. Only 12 of the men survived the journey. “The book provides an opportunity for students to understand that immigration remains among the most pressing civic and ethical issues of our time,” said Emily Hicks, associate director for the Center for Campus Life. “Urrea’s book offers an opportunity to discuss the history and present state of immigration as well as the ethical implications associated with this pressing social issue.” During the fall semester, students will continue to learn about and discuss the topic of immigration, including the legal, political and ethical ties to this topic through various activities. Urrea will visit the campus in September to discuss the topic of immigration as well as speak to the university community regarding the book and the topic of immigration. “The Devil’s Highway: A True Story,” published in 2004, was a finalist for the Pulitizer Prize and was named a best book of the year by the Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald and the Chicago Tribune among other publications. Urrea, who was born in Tijuana, Mexico, is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinios-Chicago. The summer reading program began in 2003. While the program is not a requirement, university officials do recommend it. “The program will help students get ready for the college curriculum that awaits them,” said Hicks. “Students should understand that they will be expected to learn independently, outside of the classroom. We intend for the summer book to be an introduction to what will become routine.” The Center for Campus Life coordinates the summer reading program and works with several academic partners to select each year’s book. The book is selected in time for students to purchase it during New Student Orientation.
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Five men stumbled out of the mountain pass so sunstruck they didn't know their own names, couldn't remember where they'd come from, had forgotten how long they'd been lost. Listen to an excerpt from "The Devil's Highway: A True Story"