LAWRENCE — “The Center of Everything,” the highly regarded first novel by Laura Moriarty, assistant professor of English at the University of Kansas, has been named the 2014-15 KU Common Book by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.
“The Center of Everything” is set in the fictional rural Kansas town of Kerrville in the 1980s and follows the lead character from age 10 through primary and secondary education. It is the first novel selected as the KU Common Book since the program’s inception in 2012.
“We have so many talented faculty across campus, and next year’s KU Common Book will give our students and the community the unique opportunity to interact with one of our most impressive writers,” Gray-Little said. “‘The Center of Everything’ will engage students through both the shared experiences of growing up and choosing to attend KU, which the lead character does, and a discussion of cultural issues that are relevant today.”
In the Notes from the Selection Committee that accompanied the recommendation of “The Center of Everything” to the chancellor, committee members highlighted the potential to connect with KU students on issues of economic inequality and educational opportunity:
“As only a compelling novel can do, ‘The Center of Everything’ represents these issues through the subjective experience of a protagonist whose moral and intellectual development consists of honestly and critically examining and reflecting on them. It offers a wealth of opportunities for our first-year students to engage with one another and with the world around them at the beginning of their college experience,” committee members wrote.
Moriarty joined the KU faculty in 2008 and earned her bachelor’s degree in social work and her master’s degree in creative writing from KU.
“I remember when I was writing this book, I was thinking a lot about what it meant for me to come to KU as an undergraduate,” Moriarty said. “As a new student from a small, faraway town, I was of course sometimes anxious or bewildered, but even then, I understood that being here, being part of a community so focused on research and learning, was a gift. Now that I'm on the faculty, I still feel fortunate to be part of this kind of community, and so personally, this selection means a great deal.”
All incoming students will receive a copy of “The Center of Everything” and be encouraged to read it before the beginning of classes in August. Students participate in book discussion groups as part of Hawk Week. KU Common Book is directed by the Office of First-Year Experience. Additional information on KU Common Book is available at commonbook.ku.edu.