The first-year reading for the Class of 2021 is Make Your Home Among Strangers, a novel by Jennine Capó Crucet, it tells the story of Lizet, a young woman pulled between life at college and the needs of those she loves, and the difficult decisions she faces that will change her life forever.
When Lizet—the daughter of Cuban immigrants and the first in her family to graduate from high school-secretly applies and is accepted to Rawlings College, an elite college in the Northeast, her parents are furious at her decision to leave Miami. Just weeks before she’s set to start school, her parents divorce and her father sells her childhood home, leaving Lizet, her mother, and Leidy—Lizet’s older sister, a brand-new single mom—without a steady income and scrambling for a place to live.
Amidst this turmoil, Lizet begins her first semester at Rawlings College, distracted by both the exciting and difficult moments of freshman year. But the privileged world of the campus feels utterly foreign, as does her new awareness of herself as a minority. Struggling both socially and academically, she returns to Miami for a surprise Thanksgiving visit, only to be overshadowed by the arrival of Ariel Hernández, a young boy whose mother died fleeing with him from Cuba on a raft. The ensuing immigration battle puts Miami in a glaring spotlight, captivating the nation and entangling Lizet’s entire family, especially her mother.
Ultimately I found the story to be an excellent depiction of the experiences that students undergo during their college years. College is exciting and terrifying all at once because it is often the first time that students must find their place without the comfort and familiarity of friendships and family members. All students struggle, but in very different ways, and with very different resources at their disposal. Lizet is, like you will be, torn between generational, cultural, and political forces, and her struggles and successes are part of what it means to be American today. I look forward to discussing Make Your Home Among Strangers with the Class of 2021.
Francisco Gago (“Dean Paco”)
Dean, Class of 2021
While you read Make Your Home Among Strangers consider the following questions:
- Why does Lizet feel like a fish out of water both at Rawlings and at home in Miami?
- How does Lizet cope with the challenges of being a minority student at Rawlings?
- What could Lizet do, if anything, to bridge the cultural and generational gaps with her mother?
- Have you ever experienced culture shock like Lizet does at Rawlings? How did you cope?
- Considering that college is all about making a home—finding your place, your new social network, your new sense of self—what kind of home do you want your campus community to be? What can you do to make it a better one?