18 Agassiz Circle
Buffalo, NY 14214
1880 S. Winton Rd.
Rochester, NY 14618
Medaille College Class of 2016 Summer Reading Program
An Online Guide
To help new students make a successful transition to college-level study, Medaille College has selected and purchased Laura Pedersen’s book, Buffalo Unbound: A Celebration, for all freshmen to read prior to the Fall 2012 semester.
The key to success at Medaille is being an active, engaged learner. Buffalo Unbound has been chosen to help you begin to engage actively with important ideas and to inspire you as you embark on your college career.
In her book, Pedersen celebrates what is admirable about her hometown community, despite Buffalo’s reputation for a struggling economy and even worse weather. She reflects on Buffalo’s art, architecture, history and sense of community and contemplates the ways in which the city and its people have made a difference in her life.
With a great sense of humor, Pedersen recalls the ways in which her hometown has thrived regardless of circumstance and by extension how that has contributed to her own success. Evoking courage and sometimes sadness among the humor, Pedersen asks us to think critically about our own stories and the characters involved, so that we, too, can write a future that more fully realizes our potential.
Resource Materials for Reading This Book
Resource Materials: Developing Active Reading Skills
Reading actively means holding an inner dialogue with the author. Pedersen’s writing style encourages this dialogue: she wants us to question what she is saying, to compare it to what we already know, and to look deep into our own hearts to make it personally meaningful. Nevertheless, reading actively is a skill that everyone must continually develop, and it involves strategies that are very different from the passive posture that we adopt, for example, when we watch television. The links below provide some resources that will help you enjoy Pedersen’s book and develop your active reading skills.
About the Author
Laura Pedersen has written for The New York Times and is the author of Buffalo Unbound: A Celebration, Buffalo Gal, Play Money, Going Away Party, Beginner's Luck (chosen as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection), Last Call, Heart's Desire, The Sweetest Hours, and The Big Shuffle. In 1994, President Clinton honored her as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans. She has appeared on Oprah, Good Morning America, Primetime Live, and The Late Show with David Letterman, and she writes for several well-known comedians. Pedersen lives in New York City.
Links to Interviews and Reviews
Issues to Consider & Questions for Reflection
The Power of Narrative: Stories function in many ways. They can entertain us, they can make us think, and sometimes we use them to go to sleep. Among their many uses, however, it is clear that stories play a vital role in creating our sense of collective and individual identity. In other words, stories shape the way that we think and feel about our world, as well as how we relate to it and to others. Consider, for example, how stories often inspire and encourage us to look at our world in a new and positive way. They may even inspire us take action and make changes for the better. Do you think Pedersen’s stories of her community are inspirational? Are they motivating? Below are some questions to help you reflect further on these issues.
1. Why is it important to know and tell the story and history of your community? In what ways does this provide context for taking action?
2. When joining a new community (for college, a career, etc), why is it important to learn that community’s story?
3. Pedersen uses short chapters and humor to tell her stories. Is this effective? Does it make the larger story seem more complete?
On Being Unbound: Pedersen’s title suggests that being unbound, or being freed, is cause for celebration. Pedersen implies that Buffalo has been bound by its identity as a “rust-belt” city, a negative stereotype that obscures the rich diversity of lived experience in Buffalo. She argues, however, that Buffalo is unbound, to be celebrated, and on the verge of great success. What does she think has contributed to Buffalo’s stereotype, and how can Buffalo (or any city) and its people overcome such a stereotype? Below are some questions to help you reflect on this larger one.
1. The things that bind us can also provide a springboard for success. What has seemed binding to you, but turned out to be freeing in the long run?
2. In what ways is Buffalo (or your own hometown) unbound? What might this say about the potential of a place and the people in it?
3. When we are unbound, we are open to new experiences and opportunities. In what ways are students just embarking on their college careers unbound?
Community and Culture: We have all heard the jokes about Buffalo: from the weather to our sports teams, there’s no doubt that the city has gotten a bad rap. Yet many people from Buffalo maintain a deep, even fanatical, love of their hometown: Tim Russert, sixteen-year host of Meet the Press and senior Vice President at NBC until his death in 2008 said of growing up in Buffalo, “Although I wasn’t entirely aware of it, I was surrounded by beauty and history and the sense of possibility that a great city instills in its residents. ” John Rzeznik, lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls, proclaimed it the “toughest city in America.” These are just two examples of successful Buffalonians who join Pederson in celebrating their hometown. Do these “success stories” surprise you? Inspire you? How much of a role do you believe community and culture play in shaping individual success?
1. Pederson’s book debunks some of the more damaging and persistent stereotypes about Buffalo to reveal the unbound nature of the city. Were you surprised by what you read? What do you think her book is attempting to teach us about the way we talk about and represent where we come from?
2. There’s no doubt that Buffalo has its own unique regional flair. Think about the culture of your own community growing up. How did it shape who you are now?
3. In what ways has where you’ve come from both bound and freed you?
Why should we celebrate our unbound community?
The instructors were knowledgeable and welcomed class discussions, with
respect for each student's contribution. I've learned how to be a more
effective leader. My capstone class gave insight on how to combine all
the education learned to operate a business. That's when I realized how
much I had sharpened my knowledge.