About Southeastern Common Read

Beginning in Spring 2008 with Valerie Martin's Mary Reilly, the Common Read Program at Southeastern has invited students and faculty in English classes to read a common text that facilitates growth and wide-ranging discussion. Southeastern then invites the semester's featured author to present public readings and to meet with students. Furthermore, students compete with creative writing responses to the author's work. The winning essays are showcased here on the Common Read site.

Featured authors include:

  • Richard Ford
  • Jill McCorkle
  • Sheryl St. Germain
  • James Wilcox
  • Ron Rash
  • Susan Straight
  • Tom Franklin
  • Beth Ann Fennelly
  • Mat Johnson
  • Silas House

Some of these authors appeared in cooperation with the Tennessee Williams and New Orleans Literary Festival. We have also read Khaled Hosseini's Kite Runner and Sherman Alexie's Flight in connection with performances by the visiting American Place Theatre.

*The Common Read Introduction Video was filmed by the Southeastern Channel, featuring Dr. Jayetta Slawson.

Past Reading


Claire Vaye Watkins


Battleborn represents a near-perfect confluence of sensibility and setting, and the introduction of an exceptionally powerful and original literary voice. In each of these ten unforgettable stories, Claire Vaye Watkins writes her way fearlessly into the mythology of the American West, utterly reimagining it. Her characters orbit around the region's vast spaces, winning redemption despite - and often because of - the hardship and violence they endure. The arrival of a foreigner transforms the exchange of eroticism and emotion at a prostitution ranch. A prospecting hermit discovers the limits of his rugged individualism when he tries to rescue an abused teenager. Decades after she led her best friend into a degrading encounter in a Vegas hotel room, a woman feels the aftershock. Most bravely of all, Watkins takes on – and reinvents – her own troubled legacy in a story that emerges from the mayhem and destruction of Helter Skelter. Arcing from the sweeping and sublime to the minute and personal, from Gold Rush to ghost town to desert to brothel, the collection echoes not only in its title but also in its fierce, undefeated spirit the motto of her home state.


Tracy K. Smith
Life On Mars

With allusions to David Bowie and interplanetary travel, Life on Mars imagines a soundtrack for the universe to accompany the discoveries, failures, and oddities of human existence. In these brilliant new poems, Tracy K. Smith envisions a sci-fi future sucked clean of any real dangers, contemplates the dark matter that keeps people both close and distant, and revisits the kitschy concepts like “love” and “illness” now relegated to the Museum of Obsolescence. These poems reveal the realities of life lived here, on the ground, where a daughter is imprisoned in the basement by her own father, where celebrities and pop stars walk among us, and where the poet herself loses her father, one of the engineers who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. With this remarkable third collection, Smith establishes herself among the best poets of her generation.
-GrayWolf Press


Yuri Herrera
Signs Predecing the End of the World

Recognized as one of the most significant novels published in the last decade, Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World is an epic in miniature.

A spare, startling novel that traces a young woman's journey from Mexico across the border into the United States in search of her missing brother. Makina leaves her small town for Mexico City and the United States, where she must navigate a world of shifting cultures, languages, and motives. A world that is in transition, a world that is about to end. There are threats in this world, from fellow migrants, from the local gangsters who have guaranteed her safe passage (at a cost), from the police and citizens of a place that is by turns alien and strikingly familiar. In following Makina’s journey to its powerful conclusion, we experience both countries and the space between them as never before.

Daring in its language and unrelenting in its suspense, Herrera's novel explores the borderlands we all must cross—the border between innocence and experience, between cultures, between this world and the next. More than anything, this is a novel about what it means to be a citizen of the Americas.


Danielle Evans
Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

Introducing a new star of her generation, an electric debut story collection about mixed-race and African-American teenagers, women, and men struggling to find a place in their families and communities.

When Danielle Evans’s short story “Virgins” was published in The Paris Review in late 2007, it announced the arrival of a major new American short story writer. Written when she was only twenty-three, Evans’s story of two black, blue-collar fifteen-year-old girls’ flirtation with adulthood for one night was startling in its pitch-perfect examination of race, class, and the shifting terrain of adolescence.

Now this debut short story collection delivers on the promise of that early story. In “Harvest,” a college student’s unplanned pregnancy forces her to confront her own feelings of inadequacy in comparison to her white classmates. In “Jellyfish,” a father’s misguided attempt to rescue a gift for his grown daughter from an apartment collapse magnifies all he doesn’t know about her. And in “Snakes,” the mixed-race daughter of intellectuals recounts the disastrous summer she spent with her white grandmother and cousin, a summer that has unforeseen repercussions in the present.

Striking in their emotional immediacy, the stories in Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self are based in a world where inequality is reality but where the insecurities of adolescence and young adulthood, and the tensions within family and the community, are sometimes the biggest complicating forces in one’s sense of identity and the choices one makes.


Jason Landrum

Assistant Professor
DVIC 358

Dr. Landrum's areas of interest are: American Film History, Hollywood Genres, and Psychoanalytic Film Theory. He most enjoys keeping up with the constant visual and narrative innovation of crime films and television shows and their continuing interest to the imagination. Dr. Landrum received his PhD from Oklahoma State University, his Masters of Arts from Texas Tech University, and his Bachelors of Arts from Texas A&M University.


David Armand

SEH 217

David Armand teaches creative writing at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he also serves as associate editor for Louisiana Literature Press. In 2010, he won the George Garrett Fiction Prize for his first novel, The Pugilist's Wife, which was published by Texas Review Press. His second novel, Harlow, was published by Texas Review Press in 2012. David was recently named by Gambit Weekly as one of the area's "40 Under 40" award recipients for his creative work. David's third novel, The Gorge, is forthcoming in October 2015, from Southeast Missouri State University Press. Mr. Armand earned both this Bachelors of Arts and Masters of Arts with concentrations in creative writing from Southeastern Louisiana University.


Claire Cowart

Assistant Professor
DVIC 350

Dr. Cowart's main area of concentration is Irish Studies, with an emphasis on the novel in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially the work of the Anglo-Irish authors Somerville and Ross. She has also studied 17th century literature and Victorian literature. Dr. Cowart earned her PhD from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and her undergrad at University of New Orleans. Her favorite aspect of her studies is traveling to Ireland to do research.


Natasha Whitton

DVIC 231

Dr. Whitton's areas of expertise include: Nineteenth- and twentieth-century American Literature; Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century American Intellectual and Cultural History; Asian Literature; Comparative Literature; Composition; Cross-Cultural Studies; History of Science; Interdisciplinary Studies; Women's Studies; Toni Morrison; and the Bible as Literature. Dr. Whitton earned her PhD from MPhil, Drew University, her Masters of Arts from Murray State University, and her Bachelors of Science from Eureka College. She also has a Certificate in Japanese Literature and History from Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan.


Andree Cosby

DVIC 354

Andree Cosby's areas of expertise lie in Rhetoric and Composition and Creative Writing. She earned her Bachelors of Arts from Southeastern with a thesis in Creative Writing—Poetry, and her Bachelors or Arts from University of New Orleans. Her favorite aspect of her studies were in fiction, poetry and play writing. She especially loved her Southern Novel classes here at Southeastern with Dr. Louth.


Jack Bedell

DVIC 341

Dr. Bedell's areas of expertise are: Modern and Contemporary Literature and Creative Writing. He earned his Ph.D. in English/Creative Writing (Poetry) from the University of Louisiana in Lafayette. He earned his Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Poetry) at University of Arkansas. His Masters of Arts in English with Creative thesis is from Northwestern State University. Dr. Bedell's favorite thing about his graduate studies was "the privilege of studying under great teachers alongside very talented classmates."


Alison Pelegrin

DVIC 230

Alison Pelegrin's areas of expertise are: Composition and Rhetoric, American Literature, and Creative Writing (Poetry). She is the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts, and her two most recent collections are Hurricane Party (2011) and Big Muddy River of Stars (2007), both with the University of Akron Press. Ms. Pelegrin earned her Masters of Fine Arts in FA degree in Creative writing from the University of Arkansas.