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The 2016 Commons Reading

"In a magnificently reported, nuanced but raw account of basketball and racism in the South during the 1960s, Andrew Maraniss tells the story of Perry Wallace's struggle, loneliness, perseverance and eventual self-realization. A rare story about physical and intellectual courage that is both shocking and triumphant."
—Bob Woodward, Washington Post associate editor and author


The Commons Reading is a book distributed to all new first-year students once they arrive on campus, and which will be discussed all over campus during their first days at Vanderbilt and throughout the year. This year's selection — New York Times bestselling book Strong Inside by Andrew Maraniss — is the untold story of Perry Wallace, who in 1966 enrolled at Vanderbilt University and became the first African American basketball player in the Southeastern Conference. In addition to his success on the court, Perry Wallace was also a valedictorian, engineering double-major, law school graduate, and eventual university professor. 

Strong Inside  is not just the story of a trailblazing athlete, but of civil rights, race in America, a campus in transition during the tumultuous 1960s, the mental toll of pioneering, decades of ostracism, and eventual reconciliation and healing. Throughout the academic year, members of the Class of 2021 will explore these themes — including Vanderbilt's own history, the history of gender in athletics and at the university, and the role each individual plays in the stories of others — through their Visions groups, in their houses, and in programs and classes across campus. For campus partners interested in joining the discussion and exploring these themes, please contact Associate Dean Gregory Melchor-Barz.

Follow author Andrew Maraniss on Twitter

Commons Reading Timeline

Check out this program from Reunion/Homecoming 2015, featuring both Andrew Maraniss and Perry Wallace discussing the book.