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K-State Today

April 17, 2024

'Deaf Utopia' selected as 2024 common book

Submitted by Rafael Garcia

K-State First, in consultation with the Office of the Provost and the campus community, has chosen "Deaf Utopia: A Memoir — and a Love Letter to a Way of Life" by Nyle DiMarco as Kansas State University's common read for 2024.

The critically acclaimed memoir of DiMarco — a Deaf actor, producer, advocate and model — will serve as a common point of academic discussion, programming and engagement for first-year students, as well as the university community at large, during the 2024-25 school year.

"Nyle DiMarco's engaging memoir will offer our campus community an opportunity to learn more about Deaf culture," said Brianne Heidbreder, director of K-State First and associate professor of political science. "I hope it sparks meaningful conversations about accessibility, identity and the pursuit of an inclusive society."

Chosen from a list of four finalists, "Deaf Utopia" provides a window on what it means to navigate a world built for hearing people. Before his current cultural success, DiMarco was half of a pair of Deaf twins born to a multi-generational Deaf family in Queens, New York.

DiMarco's memoir uses humor and heartbreak to chronicle his path to acting and later stardom.

"It's accessible, and I believe readers will find it relatable in many ways," said Tara Coleman, K-State First Book coordinator and programs services coordinator at K-State Libraries. "The book does a great job of offering a glimpse into the Deaf community through personal stories and history."

As the publisher's website explains, "'Deaf Utopia' is more than a memoir, it is a cultural anthem — a proud and defiant song of Deaf culture and a love letter to American Sign Language, Nyle's primary language. Through his stories and those of his Deaf brothers, parents, and grandparents, Nyle opens many windows into the Deaf experience."

The K-State First Book program will work with its campus partners to develop lectures, panels, events and other academic resources that utilize the groups' expertise during the fall semester.

Partners so far include the Beach Museum of Art; the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences; the office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging; the College of Education; the College of Agriculture and its Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, or MANRRS, chapter; the Department of Applied Human Sciences in the College of Health and Human Services; K-State Libraries; the Staley School of Leadership Studies; and the Student Access Center.

"The 2024 book selection allows us to continue conversations from the past 14 years of K-State First's common reading program as we explore themes connected to community, family, friendship, identity, language, and popular culture," said Karin Westman, chair of the K-State First Book PR/Events Committee and department head of English. "With the help of our campus partners, we're looking forward to a great range of in-person and online programming."

Other departments interested in partnering with the K-State First Book program should contact kstatefirst@k-state.edu no later than May 1 if they would like to participate and offer their expertise. Partners receive two copies of the 2024 selection to share within their department.

Additional information on the K-State First Book program, this year's selection and other resources for fall activities and classroom projects is available at k-state.edu/first/book.