August 19, 2010
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Although Slippery Rock University’s incoming freshman class of nearly 1,600 comes from across the U.S., different socio-economic backgrounds, big cities and rural communities, they share at least one thing in common: All have read Pittsburgh native Stephen Chbosky’s coming-of-age novel “the perks of being a wallflower.”
Released in 1999, the fictional story gained national attention from teens and followers of television’s popular MTV, which frequently touted the work that shares one person’s view of growing up in today’s high school and the issues he faces. It was also often compared to the late J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel “The Catcher in the Rye.”
“This is a book that young people quickly relate to,” said April Longwell, director of SRU’s Honors Program and chair of the SRU Summer Book Program. As part of this year’s program, SRU will bring Chbosky to campus for a 7 p.m. Oct. 4 public lecture in the University Union. While on campus, the author will also meet with a number of student and faculty groups.
“Since 2005, we have provided incoming students with a book chosen by a student committee to be a shared summer reading assignment. The overall idea is to give students a common reading experience and a platform for further discussions and assignments within their “Fyrst Seminar” course offered all new students. The reading also carries over to other courses and projects in the academic curriculum, and it is used as the focus of the students’ welcome to campus. We think it will offer topics for discussions at campus organization meetings and as part of residence hall programming,” Longwell said.
SRU President Robert Smith will use the book in his 9 a.m. Aug. 28 welcoming address to new students as part of SRU’s Weekend of Welcome activities. The address will be immediately followed by small-group workshops at which students will discuss campus life topics and the importance of making good choices, which directly relates to the book’s theme and content.
“We have found the Summer Book Program is a great way to begin communication with students and set appropriate expectations for their involvement on campus. This year’s selection ties directly to showing students the importance of being involved in campus life. We know from experience that students who are engaged in campus life through organization participation, on-campus jobs or athletics are more likely to be more engaged in their academics – thus more likely to continue their education through graduation. We see this as just the first stop to helping them engage in college life,” she said.
Although banned at a number of high schools across the country, “the perks of being a wallflower” explores issues related to growing up. It is told in a series of short essays written in diary form by the book’s main character, 15-year-old Charlie. The essays deal with everyday teen problems – sex, drugs, alcohol, parents, suicide, friendships and lack thereof, which some parents have said are inappropriate issues for teen readers.
The author has defended his fictional work saying many of the objectionable topics are taken out of context and, in fact, are only a small portion of the book’s overall message.
“We saw that part of the book’s theme revolved around how sometimes good people like ‘Charlie’ get treated poorly by others. At SRU, we put a major emphasis on respect of others. We think this work will help drive that point home to our new students,” Longwell said.
“Our 13-member student committee read numerous books and chose ‘perks’ because of its appropriateness for students entering college. It deals with many of the issues today’s students – and teens – face in their everyday life and offers some positive ways of dealing with them. We have had a number of students tell us how the book has positively affected their lives,” Longwell said.
The summer readers committee, which selected Chbosky’s book as their first choice did so because they found the book relevant to student issues and student transition to college. “Though it is a book about high school students, college freshmen face the same issues: change, saying goodbye, making new friends, relationships, drugs and alcohol, sexuality, making mistakes and the pit falls as well as strategies to succeed,” Longwell said.
“Students are clearly relating to the author, who, by the way, graduated from Upper St. Clair High School outside Pittsburgh. This was his first novel and is being turned into a movie, with some of the scenes filmed in Pittsburgh,” Longwell said.
Chbosky graduated from the University of Southern California’s Filmic Writing Program. His first film, “The Four Corners of Nowhere” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Best Narrative Feature honors at the Chicago Underground Film Festival.
The author is also the screenplay writer of the film adaptation of the popular Broadway musical “Rent” directed by Youngstown, Ohio’s Christopher Columbus. Columbus is best known for “Home Alone,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and two “Harry Potter” films.
Chbosky also contributed to the Broadway show “Sexaholix” and edited “Pieces” a collection of short stories for Pocket Books. His television work includes serving as co-creator and executive produce of CBS’ “Jerrico.”
The book selection committee included: Heather Aldrich, a theatre major from Myersville, Md.; Jacqueline Baird, an English major from Slippery Rock; Kayley Brabender, a special education/elementary education major from Erie; Eric Charlton, an art major from Stoneboro; Allyson DeShurko, a resort recreation management-tourism major from Dayton, Ohio; Chanel Jackson, a communication major from McKees Rocks; Darcy Grandstaff, an exercise and rehabilitative science major from Bridgeport, Ohio; Christopher Kite, a therapeutic recreation major from West Middlesex; Kendra Mundell, a political science major from New Castle; Bridgette Powers, an English major from East Butler; Nita Shippy, an English major from Boynton; Bethany Songer, a music education major from Washington; and Maxwell Spears, a philosophy major from Butler.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives. -