NORFOLK STATE UNIVERSITY FRESHMAN COMMON READER PROGRAM
ACADEMIC YEAR 2013-2014 SELECTION:
The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream
By Drs. Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, and Rameck Hunt, with Lisa Frazier Page
(New York: Riverhead Books, 2003—paperback edition)
QUESTIONS TO HELP GUIDE YOUR READING AND DISCUSSIONS
hard-copy book for its physical features, including the following:.
Cover art — What does the cover photo suggest to you? Why are
the three young men posed on steps? Study their clothes and demeanor.
Critics' blurbs — Which 'rave' reviews were selected for the cover
and first page and why? Who selects these quotations?
Short group bio (ABOUT THE AUTHORS) — Why were these few particular
details selected for this very concise bio?
TELL US YOUR STORY notice — Have you ever seen such a notice to readers
at the start of a book? What does the epithet (i.e., a set, characterizing
phrase) “The Three Doctors” suggest to you when you first hear it?
Title page — What does the word “pact” denote (i.e., what are the
word's several dictionary meanings?) and connote (i.e., what associations
does the word have in your mind?) In what order do the authors' names appear?
Why is Lisa Frazier Page's name smaller and in italics? What does the preposition
“with” signify? What other phrase is sometimes used when authors receive
help with their books? Name at least one famous autobiography that was not
actually written by its subject. What challenges are created for critics
when there are multiple authors of a book (either listed or unlisted)? What
are unlisted authors sometimes called?
Publication-data page — Place the book in its historical context.
What else was going on in the year (2002) that the hardback version was
published? What is the specialty area of the Riverhead publisher (a subsidiary
“Also by the Three Doctors” page — What does it tell you that this
book has two sequels?
Dedication page — Find out who these people are. Note: You may have
to wait until the end of the book.
Contents — How has the book been organized? Who chose this format?
Introduction — In what person (first, second, third – singular or
plural) is the introduction written? WHO is speaking and TO WHOM? Always
answer this question as soon as possible when you read any book or
Body of the book — In what person is the body of the book written?
Who is speaking and to whom? Can you really tell one voice from another?
Epilogue — What is the traditional function of an epilogue? Does
this one fit the tradition?
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS — Why is this section so long? Is it redundant?
the same set of questions for the E-book version. What does the E-version have
that the hard copy does not have (and vice versa)?
Do a close
reading of the first page of the Introduction (15 lines of text). Can you already
answer the key question: Who is speaking and to whom? Where are we in time?
Select the noun in this passage that best describes the subject matter of the
whole book. (There are several good answers.) Find the incident in Chapter 19
that echoes this opening passage.
know the outcome of a book from its first sentence, how can it be suspenseful
and keep your interest? Find examples of foreshadowing/echoing within the text.
Why are they there?
mathematics context, in what ways is this book structured like a circle? In
what ways is it like a triangle, a ray, a Mobius strip, or some other geometric
a book about friendship and male bonding. Explore some of the most famous essays
on friendship, e.g. Francis Bacon's (b. 1561–d. 1626) Essays, Civil and Moral,Chapter XLVIII, “Of Followers and Friends”
http://www.bartleby.com/3/1/48.html or Michel de Montaigne's Essays
(1693),Chapter XXVII, “ Of Friendship”
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3600/3600-h/3600-h.htm#link2HCH0027 ). In
what way do these famous essayists concur or disagree with The Three Doctors?
Mark every reference to friendship in our text as you read.
the most important mentors and role models in each Doctor's life? Look up the
derivation of the word “mentor” in Homer's The Odyssey. Note that Homer's
epic is also about a boy (Telemachus) whose father (Odysseus) is missing from
his life. Is there a difference between a role model and a mentor?
the physical surroundings – the public housing, rental apartments and houses
– in which George, Sam and Rameck live during their first 29 years. Why does
it matter where they live? Discuss the importance of jobs, money and social
class in this narrative. Using the context of political science or sociology,
does class trump race in its importance? Can (or should) the two factors be
separated? How could intervention by a social worker or health worker have helped
during the various crises depicted (e.g. Fellease's contraction of HIV-AIDS)?
the role of each Doctor's female relatives, especially his mother, grandmother,
sisters and aunts. How do these familial relationships affect each man's views
and treatment of women in general? Discuss the mother surrogates in each man's
life. When Sam's mother Moms cleans the street every morning, what is she doing?
the role of the fathers and brothers in each Doctor's life. Whose father seems
most helpful to his son? Whose father seems least helpful? Discuss the father
surrogates George, Sam and Rameck search out or create for themselves.
the role of teachers (good and bad) in each Doctor's life. Use the term “teacher”
in both its narrow and broad sense. Who was the best and worst teacher each
man had? You may want to compare the influential teacher(s) in their lives with
the teacher in Toni Cade Bambara's short story “The Lesson.”
of the Doctors is the best student and why? Which of the Doctors is the weakest
student and why? How can friends study together and be supportive of one another
without each session turning into a party? What is the line separating legitimate
group work and cheating?
the pervasive problem of drugs and violence in Newark. Is the problem better
or worse in the neighborhood where you grew up? How close have you or a loved
one come to addiction and/or bodily harm from a violent person? Discuss the
use of the terms “dog(s)” and “boy(s)” in the book.
the figurative 'soundtrack' that plays in this book. What sounds (natural and
manmade, beautiful and disturbing) accompany the lives of Sam, George and Rameck?
How do you judge their near-career in rap? Do you care if a song is socially
conscious or not in your own listening habits?
is a 2006 documentary film version of The Pact directed by Andrea Kalin
and featuring famous 'talking heads' such as Amiri Baraka and Bill Cosby. To
what extent is this film an 'adaptation' of the book? Whose perspective are
we getting in the documentary? Should they have made a more dramatic, possibly
fictionalized feature film instead? Note: Do read the book. Watching the film
is NOT a substitute for reading.
of a trunk or Pandora's Box where he placed his “bad experiences” and “stored
them, and sealed them forever” (p. 25). How would a psychologist explain this
practice? To what extent does this practice work for Sam or anyone else?
the role of private and public primary and secondary education in this book.
Discuss the role of graduate and professional education in this book. Do the
Doctors benefit from affirmative action? Is it fair that they do?
the Pre-Medical/Pre-Dental Plus Program in the book (see especially Chapter
9) to NSU's DNIMAS Program. (DNIMAS stands for The Dozoretz National Institute
for Mathematics and Applied Sciences. It is the special Honors Program in the
NSU Honors College devoted to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
How do the various summer bridge programs help underprepared and/or gifted students?
Compare Carla Dickson to one of her counterparts at NSU (e.g. Dr. Aliecia McClain,
Director of DNIMAS). Compare the consortium for graduate education depicted
in the book with NSU's own consortia opportunities.
extent is 'street' culture anti-intellectual or anti-nerd? Why are respect and
disrespect such fixations in street culture? How does this book confirm “white
folks' worst stereotypes” (p. 132) of Blacks? How does this book exploit these
same stereotypes? There is one page (p. 201) in the book that contains profanity.
Why did the authors or editors decide to include that one page after keeping
it clean for most of the book?
traits (beyond the “three Ds” touted near the end of the book) are given the
most prominence in this book? What role does God and/or spirituality play? What
is the danger of writing a collective memoir at age 29? Discuss the three mini-portraits
on p. 229. Discuss the “bullets” of advice on p.250, compared to the other kinds
of bullets in the book. How would you categorize or classify this book for placement
in a library or bookstore? Which of the following terms best describes
it: Memoir, Non-fiction, African-American Non-fiction, Neo Slave Narrative (look
this one up before jumping to conclusions), American Literature.