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.


2021 Honors One Read

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Friday Black
Friday Black Book Cover

A piercingly raw debut story collection from a young writer with an explosive voice; a treacherously surreal, and, at times, heartbreakingly satirical look at what it’s like to be young and black in America.

From the start of this extraordinary debut, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage and invigorate you. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities of life in this country.

These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest, and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world. In “The Finkelstein Five,” Adjei-Brenyah gives us an unforgettable reckoning of the brutal prejudice of our justice system. In “Zimmer Land,” we see a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of racism as sport. And “Friday Black” and “How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King” show the horrors of consumerism and the toll it takes on us all.

Entirely fresh in its style and perspective, and sure to appeal to fans of Colson Whitehead, Marlon James, and George Saunders, Friday Black  confronts readers with a complicated, insistent, wrenching chorus of emotions, the final note of which, remarkably, is hope.

From https://www.nanakwameadjei-brenyah.com/friday-black-1

About the Author

Originally from Spring Valley, New York, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah graduated from SUNY Albany and went on to receive his MFA from Syracuse University.

His work has appeared or is forthcoming from numerous publications, including the New York Times Book ReviewEsquireLiterary Hub, the Paris ReviewGuernica, and Longreads. He was selected by Colson Whitehead as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honorees, is the winner of the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award for Best First Book and the Aspen Words Literary Prize.


One Read Honors Symposium (Required Event)

Thursday, August 19 | 1:30-3:00 PM
Friday Black Symposium Flyer
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 Thursday, August 19, 2021, from 1:30-3:00 PM. Webinar attendance is required of all incoming honors students. Details and a password-enabled link will be provided directly to students via the One Read Canvas page. You will receive an invite to this page in July.


One Read Honors Discord

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 2021. Each week through June & July, we will be posting new discussion questions in the Discord.

We will also have channels dedicated to any announcements and events surrounding the One Read.


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, open to any first-year Honors student.

Enter your essay by Friday, October 1st to win $100 to the Mizzou Bookstore!

Write a 1000-1250 word essay in which you address the following prompt:

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah has said, “I use fiction as a way to find truth.” Choose two stories from Friday Black and explore what truths you found through your reading. Please include specific examples from the stories themselves and from your own life/thinking.

Please submit your essay no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, October 1, 2021 to: MizzouHonors@missouri.edu

Make sure that “One Read Essay Submission” is in the subject line of your email.

All submissions will be read and judged by a team of faculty. Winners will be chosen and prizes (Mizzou Store gift cards) awarded. Winning essays may be shared pending author’s permission.

Essay Contest Gift Card Prizes

  • 1st Prize: $100
  • 2nd Prize: $50
  • 3rd Prize: $25
Previous Essay Contest Winners
  • 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”
  • 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
  • 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”
  • 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”
  • 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”

Previous One Read Selections

2020: Dr. Mona Hannah-Attisha, What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City (Random House, 2018)

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

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

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

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

2015: 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 2021-22 the following are in charge of developing, planning, and carrying out the programming that makes the One Read a success:

Megan Boyer, Honors College

Sarah Donahoe, Student (Junior)

Kathryn Gluesenkamp, Student (Junior)

Rachel Harper, Honors College

Phong Ngyuen, English Department

Eghosa Ogbevoen, Student (Sophomore)

Erin Zimmerman, Student (Senior)