Novel 'Brooklyn' Chosen for Ithaca College First-Year Reading

ITHACA, NY—Ithaca College president Tom Rochon has announced that “Brooklyn,” by the Irish novelist Colm Tóibín, has been selected for the First-Year Reading Initiative for the 2013–14 academic year. The winner of the 2009 Costa Novel Award, the book was named by the Great Britain’s “Observer” newspaper as one of the 10 best historical novels.

“Brooklyn” tells the story of Eilis, a young woman who emigrates to Brooklyn from her home in a small Irish town in the early 1950s. Taking a job in a department store while attending night classes in bookkeeping, she goes from deeply enmeshed in family, friends and community to a situation where she knows few people, and lives in a boarding house with a group of women with very different backgrounds.

“The story offers many insights on family, tradition, the bonds of ethnicity and the process of finding one’s identity and path in the adult world,” said Rochon. “More than anything else, though, at least for me, the book is an extended meditation on making a huge leap into an unfamiliar world. Eilis’s story will resonate with anyone who is about to leave home to go to college. It is beautifully written and a model of precise observation and arresting language that should inspire our students. I applaud the First-Year Reading Committee for its selection.”

Reviewers have commended Tóibín for his description of the changes in American society during the 1950s, such as the department store’s acceptance of African-American customers, Long Island’s suburban boom and mixed ethnicity friendships and romances. A New York Times best seller, “Brooklyn” was shortlisted for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and longlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize.

According to Shaianne Osterreich, associate professor of economics and chair of the First-Year Reading Committee, “The selection committee found two traits in this novel that make it an excellent book for the first-year reading. First, anyone who has, or is about to, move to a new place, will recognize themselves in Eilis’s ruminations on adventure, disorientation and what we leave behind. Second, Tóibín’s easygoing storytelling style makes it an absolute pleasure to read.”

Along with writing a number of critically acclaimed novels, Tóibín has also worked as a critic and has served as editor of a variety of anthologies, including “The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction.” He is currently the Mellon Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

Incoming first-year students will receive a copy of “Brooklyn” during their visit to campus for orientation. At the beginning of the fall semester, they will attend a presentation and then participate in small-group discussions with faculty and staff volunteers who have also read the book.

'Brooklyn' will be Ithaca College's 2013-14 First-Year Reading