Reading In Common Program

2020: Mom's Cancer

Mom's Cancer is announced as the Fall 2020 Reading in Common text.

About the Book

What began as anonymous posts online has now been compiled into the graphic novel, titled Mom's Cancer. This "honest, unflinching, and sometimes humorous look at the practical 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 "surprised 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.

Reading in Common Events:

Book Discussion
Individual FTS/CUR-100 sections are discussing the book at a time designated by the faculty member.

Reading In Common Speaker
Online discussion with the author from 12pm-1:15pm (CDT) on Wednesday, October 7.
Join us in this Zoom space.

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.
  • Be prepared to discuss the book with your Gustie Greeter and group facilitator during orientation or with your FTS/CUR-100 faculty during the fall semester.

Obtaining Your Copy

Mom's Cancer can be read online at GoComics. A limited number of copies are available for purchase at The Book Mark (lower level of the Jackson Campus Center) or from online retailers.

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, Peer MALTs, 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).

How is the book selected?

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. Books are recommended to the selection committee, which consists of members from the Nobel Conference Planning Committee and the FTS Director.

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: