Monday, December 10, 2012

The Oberlin Book Launch: an alumna’s perspective

At our launch party in New York City just before Thanksgiving, I was lucky enough to see a load of Oberlin alumni experience the Oberlin book for the first time.

Even though we were in the lovely Pace Gallery in New York City, surrounded by a Chuck Close exhibition, people didn’t just flick through a few pages of the book and wander off to examine the paintings. No, as so often happens when the Oberlin book is displayed, people dug in, looking at page after page after page as they recognize the many layers of the work.

In that way, the book mirrors another element of Oberlin: it draws you in.

Guy speaks at the Oberlin book launch

Our Oberlin Essay-writer, Guy Evans, is a perfect example, and he said as much when he spoke at the launch party. A journalist and documentary-maker, Guy traveled from London to get a feel for his subject. Guy formally and informally interviewed dozens of alumni, professors, staff, students, and community members during his time in Oberlin. He found himself eating whole wheat donuts at Gibson’s Bakery, getting caught in a snowstorm without proper boots, and sitting in on a seminar of honors history majors meeting at their professor’s house. When he arrived to interview Professor Emeritus Norm Craig, he found himself being the one interrogated. Luckily, Guy passed and was given a personal tour of the Science Building.

I’ve heard Guy remark on several occasions that he is used to interviewing politicians, and as such, he has taken on the mantra of many political interviewers: Not “is this bastard lying to me?” butwhy is this lying bastard lying to me?!”

The college staff who were helping out with the Oberlin book (Ben Jones, Danielle Young, and Ken Grossi) sent him to talk to those who love Oberlin…and also to those who happily announced all the things they hate about it.

As he explained at the launch party, he found them to be exceedingly open, thoughtful and honest. So open and honest, in fact, that Guy could no longer apply his mantra to them, and found that he, too, had been drawn in.

As the night of the launch wound down, I asked alumni parked in front of the table of the Oberlin book if they had any questions which I might be able to answer. The majority of them did not; they were happily absorbed, nursing glasses of wine while they examined page after page of photographs and quotes and essays. And it wasn’t just those from their time at Oberlin; it was just as much the pictures taken in the 1800s as those taken last year. They were being drawn in by all of Oberlin as reflected in the Oberlin book.

Brandi Ferrebee supports communications, college relations, and publishing at College Green. A graduate of Oberlin College, she holds a BA in English.
For more information or to order the Oberlin book, please see
For more information on Guy and his work, visit

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