May 3, 2011 Dear Member of the Class of 2015: On behalf of the Department of Literature and the College Writing Program, we welcome you to American University. To set the stage for your first semester here at AU, we have chosen a book that we call our “community text” for you to read before you arrive in August. You and your classmates will discuss the book and write about it in your firstsemester College Writing or Honors English class. The College Writing Program and the Campus Store will also sponsor an essay contest to honor the best writing inspired by the community text. We’re delighted to announce this year’s choice: David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers. We will bring Mr. Finkel to campus this fall for the fourteenth annual Writer as Witness Colloquium on Wednesday, September 7 at 7:00 p.m. in Bender Arena. He will address the American University community and meet with students and faculty to discuss the book. In The Good Soldiers, Pulitzer Prize winner David Finkel chronicles the lives of the 2-16 Rangers, the first military unit sent to Baghdad, Iraq as part of the 2007 “surge.” Their charge was to help stabilize Baghdad, but they soon found themselves on the frontlines of a war whose shape was changing. Finkel embeds with the soldiers, gaining perspectives that were often lost in the day-to-day reporting on the fighting. His widely-praised account was cited as one of the best books of 2009 by many publications including The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. The Good Soldiers received the 2009 Helen Bernstein Book Award for excellence in journalism, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for exceptional nonfiction, and the Cornelius Ryan Award from the Overseas Press Club for best nonfiction book on international affairs. In crediting this “ferociously reported, darkly humorous” account, The New York Times concluded that “Finkel has made art out of a defining moment in history. You will be able to take this book down from the shelf years from now and say: ‘This is what happened. This is what it felt like.’” In a starred review, Publishers Weekly applauds both “Finkel’s keen firsthand reportage” and the “literary polish of his prose.” Author Geraldine Brooks asserts that The Good Soldiers “may be the best book on war since the Iliad.” Additionally, Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars, calls it “the finest book yet written on the platoon-level combat of the Iraq war.” The American University Campus Store is offering The Good Soliders for $11.95. You may order the book directly through the Campus Store website: www.american.bkstr.com. Copies will also be available for purchase at the Campus Store during all of the New Student Orientations, when you’ll have your first opportunity to talk with classmates about The Good Soldiers. You will find additional resources on this website constructed by our colleagues in AU’s library: http://subjectguides.library.american.edu/collegewriting. As you read this summer, think about possible questions for the author to address during the September Colloquium. You may email questions or comments to: cwp@american.edu.

You also will have the chance to ask your questions directly at the Writer as Witness Colloquium on September 7. We look forward to meeting you there to hear your responses to the provocative questions raised by Mr. Finkel’s work. Enjoy the rest of your summer. And welcome to AU. Cordially,

Keith Leonard, Chair Department of Literature

John Hyman, Director College Writing Program

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