Book on Flint water crisis selected for Rider’s 2019-20 Shared Read Program

‘The Poisoned City’ by Anna Clark is available for free to Rider students, faculty and staff
Adam Grybowski

The Poisoned City, a 2018 book by journalist Anna Clark that details the water crisis in Flint, Mich., has been selected as the book for Rider University’s 2019-20 Shared Read Program, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs DonnaJean A. Fredeen announced in April.

“This book offers many topics for discussion, and faculty will find the many themes in the book can be easily incorporated into the classroom,” Fredeen said in her announcement.

The Flint water crisis became a national scandal in 2014. Crumbling infrastructure, cash-strapped government agencies and cavalier officials all contributed to thousands of residents being exposed to poisonous elements, such as lead, from the city's drinking water. Lead can cause irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system. Even before the crisis, Flint had long struggled, with many residents living in poverty and the government teetering on bankruptcy.

Writing about The Poisoned City, author Thomas J. Sugrue called it “a gripping account of a devastating, unnatural disaster” and “essential reading for anyone who wants to understand America’s ongoing failure to deal with environmental injustice, racial inequality, and economic marginalization.”

Rider’s Shared Read Program encourages all students, faculty, staff and alumni to read the same book, creating, in essence, a book club as big as the University. Copies of The Poisoned City are available for free in the provost’s office (suite 120) in Moore Library.

The book is the second by Anna Clark, a journalist living in Detroit whose writing has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington Post and Politico, among other publications. She will visit Rider for a lecture and discussion on Oct. 29. More details about this event and others related to this year’s Shared Read are forthcoming.

Since 2014, the Shared Read has given the Rider community the opportunity to delve into social issues pertinent to those taking place in the U.S. and abroad. Previous selections include The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and How Does It Feel to Be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi.

The Shared Read book is determined each year by a committee of faculty, staff and students that strives to choose a book with topical thematic elements that can be applied to courses across the curriculum and additional programs throughout the semester. On May 22 from 10:45 a.m. to noon, the Rider Teaching Institute will host a session for faculty on how to use the book in the classroom.

While the Shared Read serves as a foundation for a University-wide series of events and discussions, it is also meant to introduce incoming first-year students to the importance of time management and the expectations of college faculty, particularly the need to tackle complex issues and to juggle many competing interests on campus. All first-year students attending summer orientation receive a free copy of the book. They are then given an assignment related to the book, which they are expected to complete during orientation.

“The hallmark of an educated person is the ability to engage in reading, understanding and discussing capacious, complex social issues like those presented in 'The Poisoned City," Freeden says. “We’re proud to continue a program that promotes thoughtful, civil discussion about difficult topics that are not only present but crucial to our national discourse.”