Reading In Common Program

2020: Mom's Cancer

About the Book

What began as anonymous posts online has now been compiled into the graphic novel, titled Mom's Cancer. This "honest, unflinshing, and sometimes humorous look at the practicel and emotional effect that serious illness can have on patients and their families" tells the story of the author, Brian Fies, and his family facing his mother's cancer diagnosis and treatment. Ultimately, this is a story of hope, one in which the words and illustrations have resonated with readers who were "suprised and gratified to realize that they weren't alone." (Source: ABRAMS)

Through his candid narrative, freelance journalist Brian Fies raises important concerns about cancer treatment, such as access and equity. As such, this book sets the stage for the 2020 Nobel Conference, Cancer in the Age of Biotechnology, which asks "Can we imagine a future in which these next generation therapies are available to all those who need them?" 

About the Author: Brian Fies

Brian Fies is a writer and cartoonist whose mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. As he and his two sisters struggled with the effects of her illness and her ongoing recovery from treatment, Fies processed the experience in his journal, which took the form of words and pictures. In 2005, Fies received the Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic for the original webcomic Mom's Cancer (2003-2005). (Source: ABRAMS) He has since written and published other comics and graphic novels, including Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? and A Fire Story

Fies graduated from the University of California, Davis, where he majored in Physics and minored in English. He currently lives in northern California; he and his wife have two grown daughters. In addition to writing comics, Brian Fies has worked as an environmental chemist, a science writer, a freelance writer, and a newspaper reporter. 

Learn more about Brian Fies or read his blog, The Fies Files.

Visualizing Reading in Common

Visualizing Reading in Common is a collaboration between the incoming students, the Reading in Common Program, and the First-Term Seminar Program. Incoming students, Gustie Greeters, FTS Peer MALTs, FTS Faculty, and Three Crowns Faculty will identify an illustration from the book or create their own illustration that portrays a theme from this year's Reading in Common book (e.g., equity, access, hope, truth) that resonates with them. 

Participants will submit their selections or creations online (see details below). These digital submissions may be shared with FTS or Three Crowns instructors and used for FTS Program assessment. 

Instructions for Submitting Your Entry:
  • Select an illustration from the book or create your own illustration that portrays one of the book's themes that resonates with you. 

  • Submit your selection or creation using this Google Form.
    • Please be aware that you must login with your Gustavus Google account in order to submit your entry.
    • Upload the file containing your own illustration (<100 MB) or submit the page number and location where the illustration can be found in the book.
    • When submitting, you will also provide a brief description of your entry, along with a written explanation of why you chose it.
    • Submit your entry by 12:00pm on Monday, September 7, 2020.
  • Please have your visual representation entry, written description, and explanation available at the Book Discussion on [Date and Time TBA], during orientation.

Reading in Common Events:

Book Discussion

Reading In Common Speaker

Nobel Conference 56
Cancer in the Age of Biotechnology
October 6 & 7, 2020
Gustavus Adolphus College

What do first-year students need to do?

  • Actively read this book before arriving on campus.
  • Take notes.
  • Highlight passages you think are important.
  • Consider the following questions for discussion:
    • [TBA - Questions are forthcoming]
  • Be prepared to discuss the book with your Gustie Greeter and group facilitator during orientation.
  • Submit your Visualizing Reading in Common entry before coming to discuss the book (see instructions above).

Obtaining Your Copy

Mom's Cancer is available for purchase at The Book Mark or from online retailers. The Book Mark is located on the lower level of the Jackson Campus Center and will have copies of the book available for purchase during Gustie Gear-Up! 

Goals and Aims of the Program

  • Encourage intellectual interaction among students in conjunction with faculty
  • Welcome students to the academic life of Gustavus
  • Facilitate a shared academic experience for all students
  • Emphasize reading as a significant component of the college experience
  • Tie together transition and integration experiences of first-year students
  • Provide opportunities for first-year students to explore issues and ideas relevant to our community and our world
  • Connect to the Nobel Conference theme

How is the Reading In Common Program used?

All first-year students, Gustie Greeters, First-Term Seminar Faculty, and Three Crowns faculty teaching first-year courses read the book over the summer. These students and faculty meet during orientation to discuss the book. The book is often used as a reference or resource in students' First-Term Seminar (FTS).

History of the Program

The Reading In Common Program began in the 2000–2001 Academic Year. Books in the Reading In Common Program have included:

Books are chosen based on their literary quality, reading manageability (college level reading but not too long), interdisciplinary nature, and connection to the Nobel Conference theme.