Hobart and William Smith Colleges are launching a Community Read featuring David Oliver Relin, an award-winning journalist and co-author of the bestselling “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time.” Every member of the greater Geneva community is invited to read the book and then to meet Relin and discuss his writing on Monday, Jan. 25 at the Smith Opera House.
“We have long sought to create an opportunity for everyone at the Colleges and in the greater Geneva community to read a common book that would spark community-wide conversation,” says Hobart and William Smith Colleges President Mark D. Gearan. “I’m looking forward to welcoming David Relin to Geneva and in deepening a conversation about the ways in which we can all make a difference in our community and world.”
In partnership with the Geneva City School District, The Finger Lakes Times and the Geneva Public Library, the President’s Forum Series event will allow the community to discuss Relin’s work reporting on social issues and their effect on children, both in the U.S., and around the world. In “Three Cups of Tea,” he and co-author Greg Mortenson write about Mortenson’s experiences on his way home from a failed attempt to summit K2. An American mountain climber and nurse, Mortenson became an unlikely champion of education through the accidental relationship he developed with a village in a remote region of Karakoram in Pakistan.
In “Three Cups of Tea,” Mortenson and Relin suggest that collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and improve access to education in Pakistan and Afghanistan-particularly for girls-can be one of the most effective means of countering Islamic extremism in the region.
A runaway New York Times bestseller, in 2007 “Three Cups of Tea” was selected as Time magazine’s Asia Book of the Year and as a Critic’s Choice by People Magazine. It was also awarded the 2007 Kiriyama Prize for nonfiction and chosen as the 2007 Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Book of the Year.
The HWS Community Read has already garnered a great deal of attention on campus and in the community. HWS students, faculty and staff are reading the book over winter break. Community members have gathered in reading groups to discuss the book’s themes. Students in Geneva city schools will read “Three Cups of Tea” through the “Geneva Reads” literacy program. Beginning Jan. 6, participating grade students and high school English classes will partner with HWS and the community to read and respond to Relin’s book.
“Students will join with HWS representatives on three occasions to experience firsthand how the simple act of sharing tea can build relationships and inspire individuals to social action,” says Kelly Pielow, Literacy Coach at the Wayne-Finger Lakes Board of Cooperative Educational Services. “It’s exciting that students reading “Three Cups of Tea” will have the opportunity to meet and question Relin. This author’s visit will be an exciting and enriching opportunity for our students.”
Later in the month, Geneva students will participate in the Pennies for Peace campaign, which will afford students the opportunity for social action in response to the challenge raised by Relin’s book-that of promoting peace through education.
In his work as an investigative journalist, Relin has been committed to increasing awareness about critical human rights issues. His interviews with child soldiers (including a profile of teenager Ishmael Beah, who would later author the bestseller “A Long Way Gone”) have been included in Amnesty International reports and his investigation into the way the INS abused children in its custody contributed to the reorganization of that agency.
Relin is a graduate of Vassar and was awarded the prestigious Teaching/Writing Fellowship at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. After Iowa, he received a Michener Fellowship to support his groundbreaking 1992 bicycle trip through the length of Vietnam. He spent two additional years reporting about Vietnam opening to the world while he was based in Hue, Vietnam’s former imperial capital. In addition to Vietnam and Pakistan, he has traveled to, and reported from, much of East Asia.
Relin recently finished a new book about blindness in the developing world. He is currently at work on a book about food, a children’s book with the artist Amy Ruppel and a novel about land mine survivors in Vietnam. He is a contributing editor for Parade and over the years has won dozens of national awards for his work as both an editor and investigative reporter.
Relin’s talk will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 25, at the Smith Opera House. It is free and open to the public. The College Store on St. Clair Street is offering a 25 percent discount on “Three Cups of Tea.”
The President’s Forum Series, established in the winter of 2000 by President Mark D. Gearan, is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty and staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members.