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Community Reading 2017

Weeping Under This Same Moon

Welcome to MCLA’s vibrant scholarly community! For the past 13 years, students, professors, and staff from across campus have come together to discuss a shared community reading—a tradition that helps us connect across difference and learn from each other. As the newest scholars in our community, the class of 2021 will help us continue this important tradition by reading a shared book over the summer and taking part in a series of events this Fall.

This year’s community reading is Jana Laiz’s triple award-winning book Weeping Under This Same Moon, which explores the true story of what happens when two young women from very different cultures connect across difference. Written from the perspectives of both Mei, a Vietnamese refugee, and Hannah, an American high school student, this year’s community reading addresses themes central to our liberal arts mission and broader democracy:

  • On the importance of civic knowledge and engagement—both local and global;
  • On the importance of intercultural knowledge;
  • And on the importance of empathy when considering ethical reasoning and action.

This year’s community reading and the events outlined below will serve as an introduction to these values and as a starting point to the vibrant conversations you’ll continue to engage in throughout your time at MCLA.


Community Reading Events


On October 5, 2017, award-winning author Jana Laiz will visit MCLA. All First-year Experience (FYE) students, as well as other community members, will get a chance to engage with the author in a series of on-campus events. Bring your books for her to sign and any questions or connections you’d like to discuss with her!


Followed by book signing

Thursday, Oct. 5, 7:00 p.m.
MCLA’s Church Street Center, Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium

limited seating


If you’d like to get published and to win a $100 gift certificate to the MCLA bookstore, participate in our 2017 Community Reading Contest! To enter this contest, you’ll be asked to create a project related to and inspired by Weeping Under This Same Moon. This project could be one you create for your FYE class, or a project that you work on independently. As long it connects in some way to the central themes Laiz discusses, your project can take many different forms. Here are some ideas for what types of projects you could create (though don’t feel limited to these!):

  • An essay
  • A podcast
  • A poem
  • A piece of visual art
  • A screenplay
  • A video 
  • Etc.

Three winners will be announced at the First-Year Experience Symposium in December. All three projects will be published and the first prize winner will win a $100 gift certificate to the MCLA bookstore.
Community Reading Events



Weeping Under This Same Moon by Jana Laiz is a stunning achievement written with uncanny sympathy from the complementary perspectives of two teenage girls – one a Vietnamese refugee, the other a passionate yet unhappy American high school student – the book vividly portrays very different yet intersecting worlds. heartwarming, even inspiring book. I recommend it enthusiastically to readers of all ages and in particular to young adults.”

George Rupp
President, The International Rescue Committee


“Through the story of these Vietnamese children and the American girl who befriends them, Jana Laiz shows us how faith and courage can overcome the worst hardship. One comes out of this beautifully written book feeling uplifted, reminding us that hope always springs eternal for all the children of the world.”

Emmanuel Dongala
Author of Little Boys Come From The Stars and Johnny Mad Dog (now a major motion picture)


“In 1976, Mei, a Chinese girl living in war-torn Vietnam is forced to flee her country. Sent away on a tiny boat, she and her teenage brother and young sister leave their family behind, hoping to arrive on safe shores. With no guarantee of survival, they embark bravely on their journey. In the United States, Hannah, a teenage girl, finds herself struggling to fit into a culture focused on drugs and parties. A non-conformist, she is drawn to important causes, and finds herself alone most of the time. When she hears of the plight of the “Boat People” escaping Vietnam, she knows she needs to help.

Alice Berger
Bergers Book Reviews


“Volunteering can spark an inner joy as Jana Laiz so aptly demonstrates in this compelling and uplifting story. We, at Landmark Volunteers have documented this phenomenon thousands of times: high school volunteers deriving fulfillment and self-respect while serving the greater needs of others. I would recommend Weeping Under This Same Moon to any adult or young person wishing to see what can happen by the simple act of volunteering.”

Ann B. Barrett
Executive Director, Landmark Volunteers


“With understanding, humor & compassion, Jana Laiz draws us into the interior lives of two teenagers living a world apart. As they share families, stories, languages, customs, food and faiths, these young women come to the place we are all searching for in today’s world – “common ground”.”

Shirley Paukulis
former editor SAWADDI Magazine (AWC) Bangkok, Thailand


Weeping Under This Same Moon by Jana Laiz is an exquisitely told story of the power of love and friendship during a turbulent time in history. Told with warmth, humor and sensitivity, Jana Laiz brings to life two young women from disparate cultures with unique voices and personalities that readers will come to care deeply about. Weeping… stays with you long after you have read the last word. It is an inspiring book not only for young people, but for anyone wishing to see what can happen by the simple act of reaching out. It will make a GREAT movie!”

Martin Meader
Co-Executive Producer/Co Story Writer Paradise Road, Author of The Adventures of Charlie and Moon.



Jana Laiz is an award-winning author and teacher who brings her belief in the importance of diversity, writing as spiritual practice, and the power of civic engagement to the many speaking events and youth workshops she leads.

Also the author of The Twelth Stone a Celtic American fantasy, she lives in the Berkshires, Massachusetts and is currently Writer in Residence at Herman Melville’s beloved home, Arrowhead.

Author Jana Laiz website:


Below is a list of past books and their authors:

  • 2016 - Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age
  • 2015 - Jeff Speck, "Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time" 
  • 2014 - Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" 
  • 2013 - Rebecca Skloot, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks"
  • 2012 - Sonia Nazario, "Enrique's Journey"
  • 2011 - Soledad O'Brien, "The Next Big Story"
  • 2010 - Laura Ling and Lisa Ling, "Somewhere Inside:One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home."
  • 2009 - Paul Rusesabagina, "An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography"
  • 2008 - James McBride, "The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother"
  • 2007 - Karen Shepard, "Don't I Know You"
  • 2006 - Elizabeth Royte, "Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash"
  • 2005 - Tracy Kidder"Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul "
  • 2004 - Sarah Erdman, "Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village"  


Reclaiming Conversation


Walkable City


Half the Sky


Henrietta Lacks


Enrique's Journey


The Next Big Story


Somewhere Inside


An Ordinary Man


The Color of Water


Don't I Know You


Garbage Land




Nine Hills to Nambonkaha