About The Best American Nonrequired Reading Committee

Our selection committee consists of a handful of high school students. One
contingent is in the Bay Area and a second is in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
These students help Dave Eggers edit The Best American Nonrequired Reading.
Daniel Gumbiner is the book's managing editor; Henry W. Leung and Jia Tolentino
are the assistant managing editors facilitating the committee in Michigan.

This collection, published by Houghton-Mifflin, compiles the country's best
fiction, journalism, essays, comics, and humor every year, and introduces
a large readership to dozens of new writers and publications.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading committee comprising
students from dozens of different high schools meets nearly every week of the
year to read, debate, and compile this offbeat but vital anthology.

Want to say something to us? Contact the BANR committee at
nonrequired@gmail.com. We'll read everything you send us.

Meeting 7/1/08

…a transcribed discussion of Stephen O’Connor’s "Man on the Moon," published in Conjunctions.

[O’Connor delves into the senselessness of stereotypes and the divisions they create. Like in Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches—where the Sneetches with stars on their bellies lord it over the Sneetches without stars on theirs—O’Connor crafts a world where segregation hinges on one seemingly irrelevant physical feature. In this case it’s the size of one’s head.]

Sophia: I loved it. I was trying to figure it out the whole time I was reading it and I don’t know if I ever did, but I think it has something to do with segregation. You really wanted to read it and figure it out, whereas with that other article we read I wasn’t interested in the plot or the setting or anything. But this one I really wanted to figure out.

Carmen: Honestly, I thought it was about aliens. I thought the big head was an astronaut and I thought at the end they were going to say something about humans on Mars or something…

Osvaldo: I didn’t pay attention to what it really meant, I just paid attention to what the author was saying. So I just liked the plot a lot, about the big head people and what was going to happen to them. Did they actually end up sleeping together?

Will: I think it’s implied that they did. But, actually, I think it doesn’t really matter whether he slept with her or not. The small head people think he did something inappropriate. Whether he did or not, their perception of what happened is enough to cause them to kill him.

Joseph: [Studying the article] Yeah—you know what—I don’t think they actually had sex. I think they were just in love. I mean, they’re just kids aren’t they?

Sophia: Yeah they’re like 13 or something. Also I think it’s about how people try to take down anyone who is smarter than they are. Seems like there are always masses of people out there who aren’t that brainy who resent anyone they perceive as too intellectual. Being smart—having a big head—isn’t cool. That’s why someone gets called a nerd in high school, or worse.

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