Ansari, Aziz. Modern Romance. Penguin, 2015.
One of the One Campus Read selections for 2017-2018 Academic Year is Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. While this book was not one of my assigned reads for the committee I read it anyway (i’ve been wanting to read it, so now I had a reason!).
As I read this selection – my second for this committee – I really considered what I should be looking for as I read these books. Since this particular book is data heavy, and data supported
- A book that is easily accessible by freshmen
- A book that is applicable to various classrooms across disciplines
- A book that has longevity (and may be used across AYs)
- A book that lends itself to engaging activities at orientation and beyond
This seems like a good list of criteria – with lots of open space for types of books to score high in each category. So my first read, Every Day meets so much of this criteria, but scores relatively low in #2. As a novel, cross disciplinary application is more limited since “literature” belongs in English and is ‘not applicable’ anywhere else (*eyeroll*).
#2 – Similarly, Modern Romance scores high in these categories for me too. The book approaches the idea of modern romance, dating apps, social media, and dating habits from sociology, psychology, and anthropology perspectives – using scientific methods (sciences!) and critical questioning (humanities). Additionally, the book includes discussion on dating in Tokyo, Paris, Buenos Aires and Doha providing a global perspective on dating that increases the cross disciplinary application of the material.
#3 – Modern Romance investigates a point in time – modern time. However, this ‘modern’ approach to dating doesn’t seem to be changing quickly. This book offers a perspective that can be revisited across Academic Years. Additionally, Ansari and his collaborator focus on heterosexual relationships meaning the questions, methodologies, approaches, and investigations could be used to investigate LGBTQ relationships. The potential for students to raise important questions beyond those posed in the book is vast.
#1 – I know I’ve presented these out of order, but this question is more of a struggle for Modern Romance. The book is well written, with Ansari’s brand of humor scattered throughout (although I was expecting more). The struggle I see for freshmen is the amount of data collected and presented in this book. Is a data heavy book as the One Campus Read good or bad? I’m not sure I know the answer to this question. Was some of the data difficult to wade through as a reader – yes. Was the data useful and important as a preview for what to expect in college – again, yes. Were the questions raised and the approaches used important for college readers to see the applicability of critical questioning and scientific method – again, yes (and huge kudos for Ansari on this one). This is where I can see cross disciplinary applications of this book AND where I can see students struggling.
So the solution, as I see it, strong reader guides to help students see the questions, the answers, and the applicability to college.
#4 – which brings me to application – how can we use this book. My mind goes to games, because I love games. Are there discussions of first dates that can be ways to encourage students to collectively write and analyze data – yes. Are there ways of designing reader guides that gamify the experience and allow space for reflective participation – yes. Are there semester long applications – yes.
As I’m reading my third book for the committe, SuperBetter, I’m trying to consider incoming freshmen. If we gamify a dating book, or gamify a gaming book, what will interest students more?