The Deep Read

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Welcome to The Deep Read, a program by The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz that invites curious minds to think deeply about literature, art, and the most pressing issues of our day. We’ll read books from a wide range of genres, exploring their implications on our politics, inner lives, and communities.

There There, by Tommy Orange

The Humanities Institute’s 2021 Deep Read Program will dig into Tommy Orange’s novel There There. Centering on an urban Native American experience in Oakland, CA, the novel was hailed by last year’s Deep Read author, Margaret Atwood, as “an astonishing literary debut.” 

👇 Sign up below to get details on our public exploration of the novel, the Deep Read class, Zoom-based salons with UCSC scholars, and a culminating event with the author. All you need to do is commit to read, question, and get inspired.

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A Humanities Institute Initiative

For over 20 years, The Humanities Institute has fostered a vibrant community at the center of UC Santa Cruz and at the cutting edge of Humanities research, education, and public engagement. This work is essential in the face of ever-changing and tumultuous times. And the Deep Read is our newest platform for intellectual engagement, classes on campus, and major events with top writers and thinkers. We aim to foster thinking deeply across all mediums, driven by conversation and timely engagement with art, culture, politics and scholars here at UC Santa Cruz who see the forest and the trees every day.

Past Deep Read Programs

  • The Testaments

    The Deep Read book for 2020 was Margaret Atwood’s latest Booker Prize-winning novel, The Testaments, a sequel to her 1985 classic The Handmaid’s Tale. With The Handmaid’s Tale now a critically acclaimed television series set to enter its fourth season, Atwood’s prescient prose depicting a dystopian future is more relevant than ever.

    The program, which ran parallel with a class and events on campus, sharing insights from Literature, Feminist Studies, Engineering and Anthropology to bear on Atwood’s work. Informed by some of UC Santa Cruz’ brightest minds, The Deep Read expanded our understanding of The Testaments  and modeled deep reading practices that will stimulate minds and foster intellectual engagement.

    Catch up on the 4-week exploration of the book:

    Week 1: Welcome to Gilead
    Week 2: Feminist Intersections
    Week 3: Toxic Bodies
    Week 4: Atwood Answers


    Margaret Atwood Live

    Margaret Atwood joined the UC Santa Cruz community for a free, live, virtual event on Tuesday September 22.

    The virtual Peggy Downes Baskin Ethics Lecture featured Atwood in conversation with UC Santa Cruz alumna, and New York Times bestselling author, Kate Schatz (Stevenson ‘01, Creative Writing). This event culminated months of in-depth programming and community engagement focused on Atwood’s latest Booker Prize-winning novel, The Testaments, a sequel to her 1985 classic The Handmaid’s Tale.

    William “Bro” Adams (Ph.D. History of Consciousness ’82), Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 2014 to 2017, was the event MC.

    The Class

    In Winter Quarter 2020, a Porter College course, offered in conjunction with the College Scholars Program, is exploring The Testaments and other works by Atwood. Students will attend the Santa Cruz Salon as part of their quarter-long engagement with Atwood’s work. Taught by UC Santa Cruz Literature Lecturer, Laura Martin, the course will inform the curriculum for the Deep Read community. Material developed for the course will be shared via community emails and online.

    Salon Series—Santa Cruz

    The Santa Cruz Salon at the UCSC Hay Barn on March 10 featured a conversation with three UCSC professors, each exploring The Testaments from a different angle.


    • David Draper, Statistics, Director of the College Scholars Program
    • Marcia Ochoa, Feminist Studies
      Andrew S. Mathews, Anthropology
    • Moderator: Laura Martin, Porter College

    Deep Read 2020 Partners

    UC Santa Cruz Campus

    The Humanities Institute
    College Scholars Program
    Division of Student Success
    Porter College
    UCSC Council of Provosts
    University Library
    University Relations


    Bookshop Santa Cruz


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The Deep Read Program is made possible through the generous support of the Helen and Will Webster Foundation.