The Deep Read

Welcome to The Deep Read, a program brought to you 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 read books from a wide range of genres, exploring their implications on our politics, inner lives, and communities.

👇 Sign up below to get the Deep Read emails and info on the the next Deep Read program.

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Yaa Gyasi’s The Transcendent Kingdom

We’re excited to announce the return of the UC Santa Cruz Deep Read program. Following our explorations of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and Tommy Orange’s There There, our next book will be Yaa Gyasi’s The Transcendent Kingdom, the story of a first-generation PhD student of Neuroscience and her search for the source of human addiction. The novel explores personal loss, the benefits and costs of cultural assimilation for immigrants to the United States, and the contrast between religious faith and scientific inquiry.

As always, The Deep Read will connect the campus, alumni, and broader community with UC Santa Cruz scholars to read deeply together. The program launches in Spring 2022. Full program details and the opportunity to get a free book will be announced in January 2022. Sign up at the form above for updates. And stay attuned!

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.

Deep Read Partners

The Humanities Institute
American Indian Resource Center

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

Amah Mutsun Tribal Band
Bookshop Santa Cruz

Past Deep Read Programs

  • There There, by Tommy Orange

    The 2021 Deep Read Program explored Tommy Orange’s novel There There. The novel depicts a variety of urban Native American characters living in Oakland, CA. We think this novel meets the need to think deeply about Native American life in our contemporary moment, helping us rethink Native experience and representation. It was also hailed by last year’s Deep Read author, Margaret Atwood, as “an astonishing literary debut.”

    Digging in to There There

    This program is all about reading deeply with help from scholars at UC Santa Cruz.  Over 4 weeks in February, we’ll read Tommy Orange’s novel together.

    Here’s what you can expect:

    Email explorations
    There were 4 weekly emails that dove into different aspects of the book, guided by UC Santa Cruz professors in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Catch up here:

    Week 1: Let’s Find the There There 
    Week 2: Against Assimilation
    Week 3: Real Stories
    Week 4: Native Hubs  

    You’ll be able to join the conversation in a series of online salons, where our participating professors will discuss the book with UCSC students and the broader Deep Read community.

    Community conversations
    We’ll have online forums open for discussion of the weekly explorations of the novel.

    Meet Tommy Orange
    This year’s program will culminate with a live, online discussion with There There author Tommy Orange on March 3, 2021. Register here.

    Deep Read scholars
    We’ve enlisted a great group of UC Santa Cruz professors who will help us dig deeply into the novel:

    • Mayanthi Fernando, Anthropology
    • Katie Keliiaa, Feminist Studies & Indigenous Studies
    • Micah Perks, Literature
    • Renya Ramirez, Anthropology
    • Jennifer Tseng, Literature

    Salon Schedule

    Thursday, February 18, 5:20 PM PST
    Creative Writing professors Micah Perks and Jennifer Tseng will lead a conversation about the techniques at play in the novel.  RSVP to receive the Zoom link

    Wednesday, February 24, 5:30 PM PST
    Professors Mayanthi Fernando,  Katie Keliiaa, and Renya Ramirez will participate in a salon-style conversation about the novel. RSVP to receive the Zoom link

    Thursday, February 25, 5:30 PM PST
    Discuss the novel with members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, the Indigenous tribe native to the Santa Cruz region. RSVP to receive the Zoom link

    The Class

    In Winter Quarter 2021 Porter College will offer a course in conjunction with the College Scholars Program featuring Tommy Orange’s novel, “Tommy Orange, There There, and the New Native Renaissance.” In the course, students will explore how the power of collective storytelling and community activism is depicted in the struggle against the marginalization of Native life, the exploitation of Native lands, the continued erasure of Native experience from the historical record, and the legacies of genocide and occupation. Many insights from the class will be shared with the broader Deep Read community.

  • 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.

The land on which we gather is the unceded territory of the Awaswas-speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma.