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KNOXVILLE — The 3,800 freshmen arriving on the UT campus this week will take a break from unpacking to discuss James McBride-s “The Color of Water.”

The book is the centerpiece of the university-s “Life of the Mind” program, which debuts this academic year. Entering freshmen are asked to read the book before arriving at UT, write a one page reflection, then spend one hour in a discussion group with 20 of their new classmates and a faculty member.

“The discussions are designed to awaken new UT students to the need to develop in themselves careful, informed reflection on matters of common human concern,- said Chancellor Loren Crabtree. “McBride-s book is eminently suited to the task.”

The book is a best-selling memoir that tells the true story of Ruth McBride Jordan, the daughter of an Orthodox rabbi, who leaves her home in the South, moves to Harlem, marries a black man, and battles racism and poverty as she raises twelve children and sends them to college. The mother-s story is interspersed with the story of her son, who struggles to understand his mother-s past and to define his own identity.

The book was selected by a committee of faculty members who teach and supervise freshmen courses. Themes from the book will be explored in courses taken by first-year students.

Students will have a rare opportunity to hear the author-s own reflections when he visits the campus in September. James McBride will be the guest speaker at Torch Night, the annual welcome ceremony for freshmen. McBride, a jazz musician, will also present a concert on September 12.

Mary Papke, associate professor of English, helped to select the book and will lead some of the discussion groups.

“This is an opportunity for students to meet a professor in a small group setting, and to have contact with a faculty member before classes begin,” she said. “It also introduces students right away to stimulating critical discourse and the whole academic quality of a college education.”