The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton is this year’s required reading for undergraduate students entering the Steinhardt School. The class, which introduces students to their programs of study, encourages them to explore their role in the academic community. Hamilton, a journalist and author of four novels, including 31 Hours (Unbridled Books, 2010), will speak about the book at Steinhardt’s New Student Convocation in October 2012.
The Camel Bookmobile is the story of Fiona Sweeney, an idealistic American librarian who leaves her home in New York to take a job delivering books to remote locations in Africa by camel. In the semi-nomadic farming community of Mididima, Sweeney finds that the book — and the riches of the world described in its pages — threatens to destabilize a culture that is balanced precariously in the modern world.
“An unreturned library book hardly seems like the stuff of massive conflict, but Hamilton makes us see how much is really at stake in a povery-stricken place where every possesion carries the weight of significance,” wrote Claire Dederer in The New York Times.
“We thought The Camel Bookmobile would serve as a wonderful metaphor to shape our discussion of the issues that our students face in a world revolutionized by technical advances,” said Patricia Carey, associate dean for student affairs.
She noted that once NYU’s Bobst Library was the central hub of academic activity and now much of research and scholarship can be done in the privacy of one’s home by simply accessing a database on the Internet.
“What do we lose and what do we gain every time we accept change into our lives is a large question this powerful, quiet book asks us,” Carey said. “Change is one of those timeless themes that every new student can relate to.”