Black Ice by Lorene Cary

Common Reader Review

Five Reasons to Read the Common Reader Black Ice

“We might not have pointy ears, magic wands, or futuristic electronic devices, but it is this love of language, the zest for exploration, and the drive to create that binds us together in a unique fellowship of words. And to me, that is better than any other convention in the world.”
Laura Heffner
Kappa Pi Chapter, Alvernia University
2009 Convention
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Common Reader

Black Ice
by Lorene Cary

Regents' Common Reader Awards

The Regents' Common Reader Awards provide an opportunity for individual chapters to organize and host a local event or activity around Black Ice by Lorene Cary. Chapter members do not need to attend the convention to apply. Contact your Regent and you may receive a $50 award for your event or activity. View application guidelines.

Common Reader Convention Awards

Awards of up to $500 will be given at the international convention for critical essays or other genres of work that deal with the common reader. To be eligible, students indicate on the convention submission form that their work is in the common reader category (presentation type). View convention paper submission guidelines.

Common Reader Review

Review by Gloria J. Hochstein
High Plains Regent, Univeristy of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Black Ice Online Teacher's Guide

Black Ice, by Lorene Cary, is the Common Reader for 2011. Lorene Cary wrote this coming-of-age story to convey her experiences as a black Philadelphia teenager who, in 1972, became a scholarship student at St. Paul's School in New Hampshire in a program designed to develop future American leaders. When she later returns to St. Paul's School as a teacher, she reflects on the experiences of Cary the student and Cary the teacher in a powerful memoir that has drawn comparisons to Maya Angelou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

The environment of the elite, wealthy, and mostly white St. Paul's School becomes the catalyst for Cary and fellow scholarship students to discover themselves, not without difficulty on the way. Although overt racism is mostly absent from the school, Cary and the other scholarship students experience cultural conflicts, racial ignorance, and self doubt. Driven to excel in all areas, Cary feels the pressure of her expectations of herself compounded by her sense of obligation to her family, to the school, and to other young people. The New York Times Book Review calls the novel "A stunning memoir . . . Subtly nuanced and unsparingly self-aware . . . Black Ice is an extraordinarily honest, lively and appealing book."

In those two years at St. Paul’s, Cary struggles with a myriad of conflicting emotions and thoughts as she copes with racial inequities and racial ignorance, gender biases, class prejudices, and her own insecurities about her intellectual abilities and her academic performance. Throughout the book, Cary asserts that race is at the core of the experience. However, anyone who has ever felt as an outsider—because of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, culture--will recognize and identify with many of the thoughts of a young woman tormented by feelings of not living up to expectations of herself and not living up to expectations of others. Cary’s insecurities seem almost universal. Who hasn’t heard that voice inside warning that others will find out that they are frauds and that they lack the intelligence, knowledge, or confidence they are pretending to have? 

Five Reasons to Read, Discuss, and Write about the Common Reader

1. The 2011 Sigma Tau Delta Convention will be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Sigma Tau Delta's Common Reader for 2011 is Lorene Cary's coming of age memoir, Black Ice. Cary, a native of Philadelphia, currently teaches creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania. So one reason to read and discuss Black Ice is that you will hear from one of the acclaimed voices of Pennsylvania, the region of the next convention.

2. Each Regent offers up to four awards of $50 each to chapters that organize and host a local event or activity around the common reader. This award is completely separate from convention submissions and does not require you to attend the convention. The Regents' Common Reader Awards offer a chance for chapter members to decide for themselves what to think of Lorene Cary's Black Ice. Simply organize and host a local event or activity around this text and apply for reimbursement after the event. Submit to your Regent the following three documents, emailed on or before March 1, 2011:

3. Read Black Ice and then you could submit a paper on Black Ice for the convention and be eligible for one of the Common Reader Convention Awards of up to $500 each. The deadline for submitting these papers is the deadline for all submissions for the 2011 Convention--November 15.

4. An excellent online teacher's guide on Black Ice was written by Peter Trachtenberg. It will stimulate your mind and provide numerous ideas for discussion and papers on Black Ice.

Check it out: Black Ice Online Teacher's Guide

5. A fifth, though certainly not final, reason to read Black Ice is that you will discover an author whom you may not have previously known and points of view which you may not have previously encountered.