Honors One Read

Honors One Read

Each year the Honors College selects an important book – fiction or non-fiction – as its One Read. The major theme or themes of the book then becomes the focal point of Honors community activities, programming, and even courses and academic units of study, all intended to extend the discussions and the impacts of the ideas and lessons for our lives.

The impact of these works on our students and their academic performance, cannot be understated; students have gone on to win awards with their essays based on these works and they have even changed their plans for academic study after coming into deep contact with the issues raised.

2020-2021 Honors One Read

August 23, 2020 (Sunday), 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. CDT 

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City

cover of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha's What the Eyes Don't See book

Flint was already a troubled city in 2014 when the state of Michigan—in the name of austerity—shifted the source of its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Soon after, citizens began complaining about the water that flowed from their taps—but officials rebuffed them, insisting that the water was fine.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at the city’s public hospital, took state officials at their word and encouraged the parents and children in her care to continue drinking the water—after all, it was American tap water, blessed with the state’s seal of approval. But a conversation at a cookout with an old friend, leaked documents from a rogue environmental inspector, and the activism of a concerned mother raised red flags about lead—a neurotoxin whose irreversible effects fall most heavily on children. Even as circumstantial evidence mounted and protests grew, Dr. Mona knew that the only thing that could stop the lead poisoning was undeniable proof—and that to get it, she’d have to
enter the fight of her life.

What the Eyes Don’t See is a riveting, beautifully rendered account of a shameful disaster that became a tale of hope, the story of a city on the ropes that came together to fight for justice, self-determination, and the right to build a better world for their—and all of our—children.

Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH, FAAP, is a physician, scientist, and activist who has been called to testify twice before the United States Congress, awarded the Freedom of Expression Courage Award by PEN America, and named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

We request that you get a copy of the book, from your local library, used bookstore, or online retailer (please let us know if this represents a financial burden), and begin to read it. Now. In full. By July 1, 2020.

The book will be used in a number of Honors courses (including FIGs and our seminars for Scholars & Fellows, but several others too), will form the foundation of lots of our programming and events, and we are still working out how you will have an opportunity to hear directly from Dr. Hanna-Attisha, herself.


Information, announcements, and the essay prompt for the current Honors One Read selection can be found below, as well as on our Canvas page (you will receive an invite).

One Read Honors Symposium (Required Event)

All incoming, first-year Honors College students are expected to read the selected book over the summer and then, during Welcome Week, participate in the scheduled One Read Symposium.

The One Read Symposium is scheduled for Sunday, August 23, 2020, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The event will be live-streamed via Zoom and students will be expected to attend, synchronously. Details and a password-enabled link will be provided directly to students.

During this event, Dr. Hanna-Attisha will be interviewed by our very own Professor Alison Young,Curtis B, Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reporting and the Director of MU’s Washington Program.


Students holding Mizzou Honors signs and smiling


One Read Honors Discord Discourse (Required)

In Honors, we don’t ever say “just go do …”, we work alongside you, every step of the way. To that end, we are also using the book to build our community over the summer. So we ask that you also join us for the first-ever Honors College Discord Discourse!

By joining our Discord channel, each of you will have the chance to begin interacting with your peers and with us, your faculty, before the official start of Fall 2020. Here’s what you will find:

  1. Each week we will be posting new discussion questions in the #water-talk-wednesday channel, which will be topical conversations about issues and concerns raised in the book
  2. Resources, including videos, Interviews, and other related materials that will help expand your knowledge and engagement
  3. Interest Groups; we will create sub-groups for those who want to talk more deeply or specifically about certain issues.

And through all of this, by design, you will find yourself connecting with your fellow Honors students through more social and inter-personal interactions.

We will also have channels dedicated to any announcements and events surrounding the One Read as we move closer to and on into the new academic year. You should have received an email inviting you to participate. Please contact us if, by June 15, you have not received the email.


One Read Honors Events (Optional)

We will also schedule and host a number of related events in which the ideas and issues of the selection will be central, as well as carried into new avenues of thought and engagement. Students have the option of attending as many or as few of these events as their schedule allows.

There will be small group discussions, led by the Peer Assistants from the FIGs and other, select students in the College. There is even a course that builds on the topics of the book and goes much further and deeper. So there will be ample opportunities to examine the book and its ideas throughout the year.


One Read Essay Contest

Each year the Honors College supports and promotes deeper engagement with the One Read monograph or novel through our sponsored essay contest. While the book is used in several classes, where the essay can be used as an assignment, the contest is open to any first-year Honors student.

Winners (1st, 2nd, and 3rd place) receive a Mizzou Store gift card for use on any item(s) sold at the Mizzou Store.

2020 Mona Hanna-Attisha, What the Eyes Don’t See

Essay Topic: In the wake of a public health disaster like Flint, we have to ask “how did this happen?” As we know from reading What the Eyes Don’t See, the answer is more complex than simply “they used the wrong water source.” Choose two factors you feel are most important in helping explain not only how this happened, but also why more wasn’t done sooner. Then, discuss what should be done in the future (in Flint or perhaps more broadly) in light of what you know now.

See the One Read Canvas page for details on length, expectations, and submission dates.


Essay Contest Winners!

2020: Dr. Mona Hannah-Attisha, What the Eyes Don’t See

1st place: Geoffrey Dean for “The Ignorant Roots of Flint’s Dirty Water”

2nd place: LeeAnn Nordstrom for “What the Eyes Do See: Civil Rights Abuse in Today’s Michigan”

3rd place: Bryson Ferguson for “The Silent Pandemic”


2019: Rebecca Makkai, The Great Believers

1st place: Anna Nastasi for “Battle Scars”

2nd place: Morgan Erutti for “The Responsibility of a Legacy in The Great Believers”

3rd place: Annaliese Hermanson


2018: Loung Ung, First They Killed My Father

1st place: Allison Plogher for “Davi: Story of a Survivor”

2nd place: Alexandra Okeson-Haberman for “This is America”

3rd place: Rebecca Jackoway for “Thinking in Italics”


2017: Louise Edrich, The Round House

1st place: Carly Brown for “Tempering Passion”

2nd place: Samantha Smith for “Strong Women: On the Sidelines but Still in the Game”

3rd place: Karlee Adler for “The Morality of Characters in The Round House”


2016: Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy

1st place: Maxx Cook for “Just Mercy: A Prompt for Civil Discourse”

2nd place: Shoshana Dubnow

3rd place: Christian Cmehil-Warn for “Just Mercy: Dehumanization Exposed”


Prior One Read Selections

2019-2020: Rebecca Makkai, The Great Believers (Penguin Books, 2018).

2018-2019: Loung Ung, First They Killed My Father (Harper Perennial, 2001).

2017-2018: Louise Edrich, The Round House (Harper Perennial, 2013).

2016-2017: Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Random House, 2014).

2015-2016: G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, Ms. Marvel: No Normal, v. 1 (Marvel Comics, 2015).

The One Read Committee alternates between fiction and non-fiction in order to provide students with the best possible range of important and influential readings.


Planning and Symposium Committee

Those interested in joining the Planning and Symposium Committee should contact Dr. Rachel Harper.

For 2020-21 the following are in charge of developing, planning, and carrying out the programming that makes the One Read a success:

J.D. Bowers, Honors College

Megan Boyer, Honors College

Rachel Harper, Honors College

Phong Ngyuen, English Department

Grace Kirksey, Student (Freshman)

Molly McDermott, Student (Sophomore)

Morgan Smith, Student (Junior)

Erin Zimmerman, Student (Sophomore)