One Book One Campus Project Finds Expanded Audience 

Woodbury’s One Book One Campus (OBOC) project is an opportunity for our entire Woodbury community to come together to read and discuss a book of shared interest. The OBOC project began in 1998, when the Washington Center for the Book hosted four days of programs and discussion of Russell Banks’ novel The Sweet Hereafter. Since then, communities and campuses across the United States have offered “one book one community” events designed to foster unity through shared reading experiences. In 2010, Dr. Phyllis Cremer and the Office of Student Affairs introduced OBOC to Woodbury and successfully led the program for five years. Last year, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences partnered with the Library to relaunch OBOC with events happening over a five-week period during the fall 2022 semester. 

OBOC is an inclusive project. A series of books is proposed, and everyone has an opportunity to vote on their desired selection. This year, our campus selected George Takei’s graphic novel They Called Us Enemy (Top Shelf Productions, 2019), which tells of Takei’s experience as a young boy imprisoned in an American incarceration camp during WWII. Co-written with Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott and illustrated by artist Harmony Becker, it was called “powerful, moving and relevant” by the Los Angeles Times. Dean Reuben Ellis said, “Over 210 students and faculty in the College’s First Year Experience Program participated as part of their class work. … All participants were given the book free of charge, with the cost underwritten by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with additional financial support from the School of Architecture, the School of Business, and the School of Media : Culture : Design.” 

The project also included a series of programs that supported dialogue and provided an opportunity to connect with voices outside the Woodbury community. On-campus guest speaker events included recognized writers like Naomi Hirahara, an Edgar Award-winning author of multiple traditional mystery series and noir short stories (her Mas Arai mysteries feature a Los Angeles gardener and Hiroshima survivor who solves crimes). We also welcomed Traci Kato-Kiriyama to campus, a multi-disciplinary artist, writer, actor, educator, and community organizer, whose work deals, in part, with the struggle of formerly interned Japanese Americans to acknowledge what happened to them and to speak out for justice.  

This year, Professor Mike Sonksen took the OCOB project a step further. As part of his INDS Conflicts class, Sonksen hosted a showcase of student poetry and prose inspired by Takei’s book at the Burbank Public Library. Twelve Woodbury student writers shared original work responding to the internment of Japanese Americans and broader social justice themes. Sonksen noted how each presented their own “grit, style, and diverse perspectives.” 

Brittani Dighero, a student in Sonksen’s class, found Takei’s book instructive for her own writing journey. “Reflecting on the past of others made it easier to reflect on my own past, and how I might express my struggles and triumphs,” she explained. “I gained a new appreciation for narrative art.” Sonksen’s teaching approach also influenced her perspective on writing, poetry, and expression, and motivated her to participate in the Burbank Library event. His support, she said, “gave me the confidence to continue working on my writing and expression skills, and to put my work in the limelight when I might not have before.” 


Last Updated on February 16, 2023. 

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