Common Reading Experience

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You're invited to join our common reading experience. UNIV 101, UNIV 201 and many first-year composition courses use a common reading experience to explore themes of identity, gender, race, ethnicity and civic responsibility. Each year a team of faculty, staff, community members and students recommend a book for our common reading experience.

2019-2021 Book: "When They Call You A Terrorist"
by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

When They Call You A Terrorist" is Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele’s reflection on humanity. It is an empowering account of survival, strength and resilience and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent Black life expendable. The book details the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ life, her personal story and her evolvement into an artist and systems change organizer.

Want to learn more about Khan-Cullors or how the Black Lives Matter movement started? Visit her website.

  • Mental health
  • Poverty
  • Race
  • Criminal justice system inequities
  • Activism
  • Social economic status
  • Addiction
  • Food insecurity
  • Gender identity issues
  • Religion/spirituality
  • Oppression
  • Intersectionality
  • Educational access and barriers,
  • Relationships and blended families
  • Transgender and Women’s issues
  • Immigration issues

Patrisse Khan-Cullors is an artist, organizer, and freedom fighter from Los Angeles, CA. Cofounder of Black Lives Matter and founder of Dignity and Power Now, she is also a performance artist, popular public speaker, and a New York Times bestselling author. She’s received many awards for activism and movement building, including being named by the Los Angeles Times as a Civil Rights Leader for the 21st Century and the Sydney Peace Prize for her work with Black Lives Matter.
In the summer of 2013 fueled by the acquittal granted to George Zimmerman after his murder of Trayvon Martin, Patrisse co-founded a global movement with a hashtag. Black Lives Matter has since grown to be an international organization with dozens of chapters and thousands of determined activists fighting anti-Black racism worldwide. In the early months of 2017 Patrisse accepted a book deal with St. Martin’s Press to publish her memoirs which were released in January 2018. The book is called When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir and was co-written with journalist asha bandele and has a forward written by Angela Davis.


In August 2018 Patrisse announced her new role as an adjunct professor at Arizona’s Prescott College where she will teach a course she created that examines, social practice, cultural work, and art impact on community organizing as part of the Social Justice & Community Organizing (SJCO) Master’s degree program. Patrisse is also completing her studies as a 2019 MFA candidate at the University of Southern California.

To help get the book in the hands of every student, we need your help! After you've read your copy of the book, we encourage you to donate it to a new incoming student by sending it through Campus Mail or bringing it to First- and Second-Year Experience in Altgeld Hall Room 100.

Feel free to mark your favorite passages and/or quotes and perhaps include an inspiring note for a first-year student as a way of welcoming new students to the university.

If you have not yet been able to get a copy of When They Call You A Terrorist, here are some free and for-purchase options:

Available Format Price
Huskie Books and Gear New hardcover TBA
Amazon New hardcover $13.73
Kindle $11.99 
Audio Free audio trial for 30 days. After 30 days, $14.95/month.
Barnes & Noble Hardcover $22.49
DeKalb / Sycamore Public Libraries Varies Free to check out with library card
First- and Second-Year Experience Hardcover Contact FSYE at 815-753-0028 to see if we have any copies to lend.

Program Goal: Establishes a common, educationally-purposeful experience among first-year students to foster community at NIU.

  • Students will recognize Northern Illinois University’s value of intellectual development.
  • Students will identify community with peers and facilitators through shared reading and discussion experience.
  • Students will connect in- and out- of classroom experiences.
  • Students will explore community conversations and improve communication skills.

Program Goal: Provide new students with the opportunity to begin exploring new perspectives and ways of viewing the world.

  • Students will become aware of the validity of differing viewpoints.
  • Students will begin to explore self perception and personal values.
  • Students will recognize a comfortable, safe environment that is conducive to learning.

Program Goal: Orients new students to critical thinking and the spirit of intellectual inquiry.

  • Students will read the book selection in its entirety.
  • Students will recognize their individual responsibility for learning in the university.
  • Students will understand that the academic experience is enhanced by exercising personal initiative.

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