CMC’s Common Reader Program Inspires Understanding through Literature
by London Lyle, published in the Sopris Sun on October 18, 2023
Read the Article on the Sopris Sun website HERE.
Colorado Mountain College (CMC) is hosting award winning author Benjamin Alire Sáenz at eight different CMC communities, from Oct. 23-27, to discuss his book, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.” The book is CMC’s current common reader. Locally, Sáenz will be present for a common reader talk and book signing at 6pm on Oct. 27 at the Spring Valley campus (3000 County Road 114, Glenwood Springs).
Although Sáenz’s book was originally published in 2012, it has recently been generating quite a bit of buzz, as the cinematic adaptation, “Ari and Dante,” was just released in theaters on Sept. 8. One of the film’s producers, Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton,” gives the film a bit of star power as well.
The young adult novel follows two Hispanic teenage boys, Ari and Dante, growing up in El Paso, Texas in the ‘80s. It explores their relationship to the world around them, their sexuality, gender roles, race and class struggle, and friendship. Sáenz himself came out as gay in his fifties, and has written extensively on sexuality.
In some schools, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” is one of many “banned” books, possibly due to its LGBTQ+ context. In comparison, CMC, albeit a collegiate institution, recently added a page on their website (www.coloradomtn.edu/student-services/lgbtq) full of resources for the LGBTQ+ community.
The Common Reader Program has a committee of 18 people, from 11 campuses, who come together to select books that they feel best serve the community.
“The mission of this program is to select a book representative of what our community needs to talk about. The committee felt not only a need to address these issues through a book, but also to provide resources … through the resource guide that we’ve created. We’re always looking for ways to give back,” said Jane Szucs, an assistant dean of instruction at CMC who coordinates the Common Reader Program.
In fact, “We worked with YouthZone in Glenwood, with one of their youth advocates who works with an LGBTQ+ group in the Valley,” continued Szucs. “So, we were able to give books to that youth group, and direct them to our resource page. Knowledge is power!”
The Common Reader Program, which is open to everyone in the community, was first launched in 2007. As our world has changed, so has the program. The selected book is offered in alternative formats, including audio books and e-books. The student demographic has also shifted, Szucs explained.
“I think the program has really transformed. Last year, we were recognized as a Hispanic serving institution because 25% of our students identify as such. So it’s been kind of a process of evolution and growth for CMC, and really a result of our president, Carrie Hauser, and chief operating officer, Matt Gianneschi, and our executive leadership looking at our data and demographics, and asking, ‘Who aren’t we reaching? How do we reach them? And, How do we provide the resources and support for everyone to succeed at CMC?’ That’s what Common Reader does.”
Copies of “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” can be found at local bookstores, through CMC’s virtual library and the Libby app, found at www.library.coloradomtn.edu/reader, at CMC Spring Valley and in public libraries.
Additionally submissions for the CMC’s Art and Creative Writing Contest are due on Nov. 10. The contest is open to all community members, and six winners will be selected — three in the art category and three in the creative writing category — and recognized on CMC’s Common Reader webpage. The theme is “Portraits of Discovery: Identity, Rights and Love.”
More information on the contest and the Common Reader Program can be found at
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