The College Reads!

The College Reads! is the College of Charleston’s campus-wide common reading program designed to connect students, faculty, and staff around a single book to promote the idea that liberally educated people read broadly and discuss with one another ideas arising from the books they share.  All incoming students and roster faculty receive a copy of the book. Additional copies are made available for borrowing and sharing widely across campus.

2019-2020 Book Selection

The College Reads! committee is pleased to announce the 2019 book:  Rising out of Hatred by Eli Saslow (Penguin Random House, 2018).

Rising Out of Hatred is the story of Derek Black. Derek is the son of Don Black, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and the founder of the first and largest neo-Nazi website, Stormfront. Derek’s mother, Chloe Hardin Black, is former Klan leader David Duke’s ex-wife, and David Duke is Derek’s godfather. When Derek was in grade school, his parents decided that the schools were becoming too focused on diversity, so they pulled him out to homeschool him. He frequently traveled with his father to white nationalist conventions and gatherings. By the time he was a teenager, he had developed a white nationalist website for children and started his own weekly radio show. 

Rising Out of Hatred book cover

In 2010, Derek enrolled in New College: The Honors College of Florida and largely operated under the radar, continuing to broadcast his white nationalist radio show even as he befriended Hispanic and Jewish students. He was a very strong student, admired by his faculty and active on campus. He was studying abroad when his identity was uncovered and he was outed on an open-campus email forum. Students and university administrators struggled with how to react – should Derek be expelled? If so, on what grounds?  Ultimately, the administration determined it could not remove him from campus. Derek elected to move off campus, but continued to take classes and interact with faculty and students in a number of ways. He also continued broadcasting his radio show.

Through his personal relationships with other students, Derek began to question his longstanding commitment to white nationalist beliefs. A large part of the book is about these close personal encounters (e.g., weekly Shabbat dinners, exchanges between Derek and his girlfriend Allison) and conversations designed to confront Derek with science and reputable scholarship. Derek’s friends were committed to demonstrating the harm his racism and hatred caused others. Ultimately, Derek renounced white nationalism but it was a struggle for him to do so because it meant renouncing his family as well. Don Black tried to convince Derek to return, particularly after Trump’s election in 2016.

The book provides an introduction to white nationalism, which has been the subject of continued public  scrutiny and media attention. More importantly though, the book is about the transformative power of higher education, of going to college, and the value of developing close personal relationships with people whose beliefs differ from your own. Facts, research, and strong teaching in a liberal arts curriculum all matter in shaping and reshaping beliefs and opinions.

The author, Eli Saslow, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and a staff writer for The Washington Post.  Saslow first heard about Derek Black when he was working on a story about Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who in 2015 killed nine African-Americans parishioners at Emanuel AME Church two blocks from campus.  Roof had spent a lot of time on Stormfront. When Saslow visited the site, he read many posts celebrating Roof and denouncing Black as a traitor to the movement. The book is based on personal conversations with Derek Black, his family, faculty and students at New College in Sarasota (FL), Derek’s friends at New College, and members of Stormfront.  There are large portions of the book that reflect verbatim open forum exchanges between students at New College that we think students will find engaging.

Eli Saslow will be on campus in the fall semester for campus and community events. 

All incoming students and roster faculty receive a copy of the book. Alternate formats of the book are available.  Additional  copies are made available for borrowing and sharing widely across campus. All faculty and incoming students are encouraged to read this selection as it will be connected to the academic curriculum and campus activities throughout the year.  

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