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Summer Reading Assignment

WVU's Campus Read

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi has been selected as the 2023-24 WVU Campus Read. All students should read this fantastic book during the summer months.

The WVU Campus Read program is an academically-driven common read experience that engages students, faculty, staff, and even members of the Morgantown community, to share ideas and think critically through thoughtful dialogue.

As a first-year Honors student, we ask that you delve into the material a little deeper and reflect on the book before starting your classes this fall. The Campus Read examines deep, complex issues that may be triggering to some. If you feel the need, please reach out to counselors at the WVU Carruth Center at 304-293-4431 or


Life can seem unfair, chaotic and unsettling at times. Yaa Gyasi shares a story about generational trauma, financial struggle, familial dysfunction, drug addiction, mental illness, immigration, religion and the complex emotions that go along with those experiences. Throughout the novel, the central character, Gifty, remains curious about her experiences, and ultimately, her curiosity about addiction becomes her life’s work. Here at the Honors College, we encourage you to lean into your curiosity, too. How will you make meaning of your own life experiences?

The Honors experience is about becoming more of who you really are. We support you during your time in the Honors College and encourage you to uncover, discover and develop the real you.

Through the Honors College Summer Reading Assignment, we encourage you to think critically, consider all options to make the best possible decisions, and work toward becoming the best version of yourself. Active reflection, after all, is a huge piece of what college is all about, and what makes the college experience something that is invaluable and life changing.

The Honors College has developed four prompts for you based on the reading.

Your Assignment

The Honors College has developed four prompts for you based on the reading. Please choose one prompt.

For prompts 1-3, write an essay that is:

  • 1200-1500 words,
  • double-spaced,
  • 12-point font size,
  • Times New Roman,
  • one-inch margins and
  • APA or MLA format.
Note that prompt 4 involves the creation of a digital narrative or TikTok-like video rather than an essay (see prompt 4 for specific requirements). Your essay, digital narrative or video is due on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023, by 11:59 p.m. You will submit your work to your HONR 102 mentors via eCampus. eCampus will be available starting Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.

Prompt 1

Gifty’s brother died from an overdose, which greatly affects both Gifty and her mother. Gifty even decides to study neuroscience and addiction partly because of what happened to her brother and the effect it had on her mother.

Gifty recalls, “I loved God, my brother, and my mother, in that order. When I lost my brother, poof went the other two. God was gone in an instant, but my mother became a mirage, an image formed by refracted light.” (p. 280)

Has there been an event in your life that affected you similarly or changed the course of your life?

Prompt 2

A common theme in the book was Gifty’s struggle to separate the beliefs she grew up with versus what she believes now.

Gifty states, “I used to see the world through a God lens, and when that lens clouded, I turned to science. Both became, for me, valuable ways of seeing, but ultimately both have failed to fully satisfy in their aim: to make clear, to make meaning.” (p. 213)

Is there anything you believed when you were younger that you don’t believe in anymore or you simply aren’t sure about, like Gifty’s struggle with religion? Is there anything you didn’t believe that you believe now? Please relate your response to quotes or experiences that happened in Transcendent Kingdom.

Prompt 3

Much of Gifty’s story is about trying to make meaning of what happened to and around her. She uses her talent as a scientist to understand addiction, which, in turn, gives her a sense of purpose. This outcome, however, does not come without challenges. Gifty talks about one particular class during college that she struggled with and gratefully accepted a B- in the course. As a humanities requirement for her degree, she took a creative writing class, something that was out of her comfort zone. (Chapter 19)

As a college student, you may need to step outside your comfort zone, as well.

How will you use your Top 5 Gallup strengths to overcome obstacles and challenges you may face? How will you utilize your Top 5 Gallup strengths to fulfill your purpose? Share your purpose and how it may align with Gifty’s quest to make meaning of her life experiences.

Prompt 4

One of Gifty’s favorite teachers tells the protagonist:

"The truth is we don't know what we don't know. We don't even know the questions we need to ask in order to find out, but when we learn one tiny little thing, a dim light comes on in a dark hallway, and suddenly a new question appears. We spend decades, centuries, millennia, trying to answer that one question so that another dim light will come on. That's science, but that's also everything else, isn't it? Try. Experiment. Ask a ton of questions."

Create either a TikTok-like video (does not have to be on the TikTok platform) or a digital narrative using Adobe Spark Page to discuss this quote and its relation to critical thought and learning, the scientific method or the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Explain how this quote will influence your time in college.

The video or digital narrative must include:

  • A thesis statement.
  • At least 7 photographs with 3-5 sentences of narrative for each photo that support the thesis. Students are welcome to use pictures of themselves, their lives, their books, their family, or whatever photographs they feel relates to the quote (Digital Narrative)
  • At least 45 seconds of information that supports your thesis in a cohesive narrative (Video)
  • An explanation of what the quote has to do with the novel
  • An explanation of how the quote will influence your time in college
  • An explanation of what the quote has to do with critical thought and narrative, the scientific method or the Dunning-Kruger effect (Choose One)
  • Music, pictures, narrative and videos that creatively illustrate your main thesis
Here are some examples of previous projects:


The assignment will be graded out of a total of up to 100 points. The assignment rubric is available below.

Prompts 1-3

Prompt 4

Campus Read Prompt Discussions

Join us for one of our optional Campus Read Prompt Discussions later this August. Email invitations to register for the discussions will be sent closer to each date.

  • Sunday, August 6, 2023, from 7-8 p.m. on Zoom
  • Monday, August 7, 2023, from 7-8 p.m. on Zoom
  • Tuesday, August 8, 2023, from 7-8 p.m. on Zoom
  • Wednesday, August 9, 2023, from 7-8 p.m. on Zoom


For questions about the summer reading assignment, please email Dr. Ashley Watts.