The campus-wide summer reading for the 2016-2017 academic year is We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. The Summer Reading Guide provides questions to help read closely and thoughtfully.
In We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, the protagonist, Rosemary Cooke, is a young college student making decisions about her education and life as she struggles with the sophisticated ideas she’s experiencing in her classes and the social life of roommates, friends, and romance. Rosemary also has difficulty understanding her family’s involvement in her father’s research to determine whether a chimp has the capacity to learn how to communicate with humans. Reflections on the power of language run throughout the novel, from Rosemary’s childhood to her college years. At times, Rosemary is verbose and at times, reticent; but she continues to search for the language to give meaning to her experience.
Trying to reconcile the family dynamics in her life, Rosemary also encounters the unreliable nature of memory. Fowler explores this theme both in Rosemary’s efforts to reconcile the past and in questions about animal cognition: does our capacity for memory make us uniquely human? Fowler’s novel examines the similarities and differences between human and non-human animals, essentially asking readers to play Rosemary and Fern’s childhood game, “Same/Not Same.”
Order your copy of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves from the Luther Book Shop.