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Common Reading Events

The Common Reading Program is made possible through the generous support of the Shepherd University Foundation.

February 2019

Friday, Feb. 8th – 7:00 pm @ Reynolds Hall

Under the Sun” – (2015) by Vitaly Mansky; in Korean; 106 min.

Presented in conjunction with the Shepherdstown Film Society. Post-film discussion led by Dr. Marat Akopian.

“Critics’ Pick! Startling and chilling.”The New York Times

“Fascinating; a revealing act of subversion.”Variety

“The script of this extraordinary and revealing film, about an ordinary family in Pyongyang, was assigned to the filmmakers by the North Korean authorities. The crew was accompanied at all times by minders ‘to prevent us from getting lost’; the locations were pre-selected; the performances orchestrated to depict suitably fervent levels of patriotism. All the footage was scrutinized by DPRK officials to check for mistakes in showing a typical family in ‘the best country in the world’. It’s no wonder that the smiles start look a little forced. What’s more unexpected is just how much Russian documentary filmmaker Vitaly Mansky is able to reveal despite, and often because of, the stringent restrictions imposed upon him.”Screen Daily

March 2019

Tuesday, March 19th – Reynolds Hall – 7:30 pM

In collaboration with the Speak Story Series: Korean Folktales with story teller, Alton Chung

$12 general admission. Free for Shepherd University students with Rambler ID.

Stories allow us to safely explore those dark corners of ourselves where we are too afraid to look.  By identifying ourselves with characters in a story and being there with them through their trials, make it possible for us to safely re-experience our own hurts and wounds and see them as they truly are.  Stories provide us with the opportunity to re-evaluate assumptions we made about life.  In this way, stories can help us begin to heal and become all of who we truly are.

Born in Hawaii, Alton Takiyama-Chung, was the best Japanese-Korean howler in the whole hospital.  Upon taking him home, his exhausted parents decided that enough was enough and that is how he became the youngest child of his family. Growing up in Hawaii, he listened to elders, friends, and family “talk story.”   He learned about the stories and superstitions of the islands and gained respect for the beliefs of different cultures.  As a performer, Alton tells Asian folk tales and Hawaiian legends with respect and authenticity.

In 2005, Alton was awarded the first J.J. Reneaux  Emerging Artist Award by the National Storytelling Network.  His DVD LIFE IS THE TREASURE: Okinawan Memories of WWII and his CD TALES FROM THE LANAI: Legends and Stories from Hawaii have both won Storytelling World Honors.  Alton received a B.A. in Zoology (cum laude; Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Washington and an M.S. in Oceanography and an MBA from Oregon State University.  He is also a graduate of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing and is the former Chairman of the National Storytelling Network.

Past Events:


Wednesday, Sept. 5th – 7:00 pM

Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History & Education Auditorium

“We Will Never Do Without Family”:  Hyeonseo Lee’s Escape from North Korea – lecture by Dr. David Gordon

Hyeonseo Lee’s story is rooted in the history of Korea, an ancient civilization that was tragically divided into north and south after World War II.  Lee and later her mother and brother escaped North Korea, a land that both flattered and brutalized its people.  This lecture compares Lee’s description of North Korea with the totalitarian regime depicted in George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, finding many similarities and one major difference:  In North Korea, family serves as a quiet but secure lifeline for its citizenry.

David B. Gordon holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Hawaii and has taught at Shepherd University since 2000.  His research focuses on modern East Asian intellectual history.  In 2009, his college-level biography of Chinese revolutionary Sun Yatsen was published by Pearson. 

Friday, Sept. 14 – 9:00 aM

Annual Breakfast on the Porch, Scarborough Library Front Porch, until 11 a.m. – Recognizing the 12th anniversary of the Common Reading Program. Sponsored by Scarborough Library and Student Library Advisory Board


Monday, October 1st – 7:00 pM

Frank Center Theater

Hyeonseo Lee – Author Visit & Book-Signing

Hyeonseo Lee, a North Korean defector and the author of the 2018-2019 Common Reading “The Girl with Seven Names”, will speak at Shepherd University as the featured event of this year’s common reading program. Book signing and refreshments to follow. Sponsored by the Shepherd University Foundation.  Shareable Poster

November 2018

Monday, Nov. 5th – 6:00 PM

Robert C. Byrd Center For Congressional History & Education Auditorium

“The Defector: Escape from North Korea” – Film Screening