Photo of Daisy Hernandez.
Daisy Hernandez

TIME top 10 book selected as CWRU’s common reading

Celebrated author to address the Class of 2028 during Fall Convocation

The World Health Organization estimates as many as 7 million people worldwide have Chagas—an infectious disease caused by a parasite, but made more dangerous by systemic inequalities, such as poverty and racism. 

The disease is found primarily in Latin American countries and is curable if caught early. When neglected, however, it can lead to heart damage, digestive and neurological symptoms, and even death, as is the case for approximately 12,000 people each year.

Chagas and all its social implications are of particular interest to Daisy Hernández, associate professor of creative writing at Northwestern University and Case Western Reserve University’s 2024 Elaine G. Hadden Distinguished Visiting Author. 

Hernández is an essayist, memoirist and journalist whose work focuses on the intersections of race, ethnicity, immigration, class and sexuality. Her most recent book, The Kissing Bug (Tin House Books, 2021), tells the story of the author’s aunt, who lost her life to Chagas, and Hernández’s ensuing investigation into factors that perpetuate the disease in the Latine community.

In addition to such accolades as the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and being named a top 10 nonfiction book of 2021 by TIME magazine, The Kissing Bug is Case Western Reserve’s common reading selection for incoming undergraduates. 

The common reading program is designed to facilitate a successful transition to university life by giving all undergraduates a glimpse into the types of seminars and discourse they will encounter at CWRU. Over the summer, incoming students receive a copy of the book, which serves as the topic for Fall Convocation. Kelvin Smith Library provides a research guide on the book and its author, giving students a foundation for navigating the library’s various resources. Finally, in partnership with the university’s Writing Program, the library also hosts a group discussion to inspire conversations on the book’s themes.

The Kissing Bug tells a very personal story that crosses generations and highlights the essential human right of access to quality healthcare,” said Professor of Music Daniel Goldmark, who chairs the selection committee for the common reading. “The committee felt it would appeal to a broad range of CWRU students, in that it brings up issues related to social justice, public health, medical humanities and disability studies, as well as themes related to a variety of underserved, minoritized groups around the world.”

Students will hear from—and some may have a chance to meet—Hernández when she addresses the Class of 2028 as keynote speaker for the University Welcome and Fall Convocation on Aug. 19.

The event, which is open to the entire campus community and the public, is presented in partnership with Think Forum, one of the nation’s longest consecutive-running speaker series. Registration is required.

About Elaine G. Hadden

Cleveland philanthropist and civic activist Elaine G. Hadden’s long record of distinguished service to Case Western Reserve extended well beyond her role as a valued member of the university’s Board of Trustees from 1976 to 2003. She believed CWRU’s breakthroughs and intellectual contributions directly benefit all of Northeast Ohio, and during her life she remained one of the institution’s most outspoken advocates. In 2012, she established the Elaine G. Hadden Distinguished Visiting Author Fund to support presentations by the author of the book featured each year as the university’s common reading.