(ATLANTA) — A Latina author and New York Times contributor responded after students at Georgia Southern University (GSU) burned a copy of her new book after she gave a talk on campus.
“This book began as an act of love and an attempt at deeper understanding,” Jennine Capo Crucet said in a statement released Friday on Twitter.
“I hope GSU can act from the same place and work to affirm the humanity of those students who might understandably feel unsafe in the aftermath of the event and the book burning, and that the campus continues the difficult and necessary conversation that began in that auditorium,” she continued.
Crucet spoke at the school’s performing arts center on Wednesday about her novel “Make Your Home Among Strangers” that follows the story of a Hispanic girl, inspired by her own struggles growing up in a predominantly white environment.
She said in the statement that she gave a talk there she’s given at other colleges and that “nothing close to the events at GSU has occurred during any of my previous campus visits.”
After her talk, the author and University of Nebraska professor opened up the floor for questions, and one student pressed her about generalizations of white privilege, according to the university’s newspaper, The George-Anne.
“I noticed that you made a lot of generalizations about the majority of white people being privileged,” the student said, according to the paper. “What makes you believe that it’s OK to come to a college campus, like this, when we are supposed to be promoting diversity on this campus, which is what we’re taught. I don’t understand what the purpose of this was.”
“I came here because I was invited, and I talked about white privilege because it’s a real thing that you are actually benefiting from right now in even asking this question,” Crucet responded, per the paper.
In her Friday statement, Crucet said the student had a “hostile reaction” that “closely mirrored the exchange that I recount in the essay itself. it was very surreal and strange.” She continued that “after students began shouting back and forth at each other,” she asked faculty to find the student who asked the question “and other students who were similarly upset, and follow up with them because a compassionate and continuing conversation needed to occur.”
Crucet added that “the event continued as planned, with other students apologizing for the strangeness and rudeness they felt their peer had shown in the way the question was delivered.”
Later Wednesday evening after the event, a video was posted on Twitter that showed a group of students allegedly burning her book.
“While it’s within the students’ First Amendment rights, book burning does not align with Georgia Southern’s values nor does it encourage the civil discourse and debate of ideas,” John Lester, vice president for strategic communications and marketing said in a statement to The George-Anne.
Crucet said that during the event “many students remarked on how much the story of the novel’s protagonist mirrored their own, and expressed gratitude for the book.”
“To think of those students watching as a group of their peers burned that story — effectively erasing them on the campus they are expected to think of as a safe space — feels devastating,” she said.
Crucet has a second book, “My Time Among the Whites: Notes from an Unfinished Education,” that includes a collection of essays on “feeling like an ‘accidental’ American and the tectonic edges of identity in a society centered on whiteness,” according to her website.
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