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A guide to the 2018 Common Read book, "The Leavers" by Lisa Ko
One morning, Deming Guo’s mother Polly goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. Left with no one to care for him, eleven-year-old Deming is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.
A vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging,The Leavers is the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away—and how one woman learns to live with the mistakes of her past.
The Leavers was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction and the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Award for Socially Engaged Fiction.
How was this book selected?
Common Reading Selection Committee, 2017-18
Michele Van Hoeck, Co-Chair, Dean of Library
Aparna Sinha, Co-Chair, Culture & Communication
Julie Chisholm, Culture & Communication
Margot Hanson, Library
Mike Holden, Mechanical Engineering
Elaine Kociolek, Student Engagement & Academic Support
"Should fiction be relevant or timeless? Should it aim to put a human face on issues of the day? And if so, is that enough? Should it do more? Lisa Ko’s debut novel, “The Leavers,” brings these perennial questions to mind."
The Bellwether Prize was created to promote fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. Established by Barbara Kingsolver in 2000 and funded entirely by her, it is awarded biennially to the author of a previously unpublished novel of high literary caliber that exemplifies the prize’s founding principles.
Lisa Ko is the author of The Leavers. Her writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, O. Magazine, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the MacDowell Colony, among others. Born in Queens and raised in New Jersey, she lives in Brooklyn.