Penn State

Jelena Srebric - professor of architectural engineering, College of Engineering

Book Title: People of the Book

Author: Geraldine Brooks

Book Description:

All academics are in essence “people of books.” This particular text describes several centuries of wars, including the most recent resulting in my emigration from the former Yugoslavia to the United States, and Penn State, where I have resided for the past decade. This book resonated with the sadness I experienced during the tragedy of this conflict. Furthermore, this text put me in touch with my humanity, and enabled a cathartic process, which was compressed through the years of my vigorous academic endeavors. This particular book presents a perspective of Serbian people, which was incongruent with my experiences as well as the general zeitgeist of the Serbian populous. This dissonance was both painful and instructive as it forced me to acknowledge the necessity for Serbians to take responsibility for what some of our fellow countrymen have done. I personally feel sorry for all people of former Yugoslavia, who attacked each other in a meaningless civil war. More importantly, this book is a reminder that as long as we are in touch with our humanity, all wars are meaningless and our cultural heritage should be protected regardless of our political or religious orientation. Similarly, academics often engage in meaningless conflicts, wrought with vain and animus. We are often disrespectful to each other under the false pretense of academic rigor. Conflict of any nature distorts the human soul. We should all endeavor to preserve the highest aspect of own humanity and in that spirit on we can engage each other in a more productive pursuit of knowledge.

Lastly, this book is a fond reminder of my dear colleague, Dr. Michael Horman, who prematurely died at the age of thirty-eight in the classroom at Penn State. He was my age and we both started appointments here at Penn State on the same day. Our life stories have many parallels, as he also crossed the ocean to pursue his ambitions from Australia. He was a deeply honorable person, and embodied a model citizen greatly needed in our academic community. I think of him often as his memory is an anchor to my own humanity. I am certain that he would have earned his promotion on the same day as I did, if he had lived. Sadly, I am left to wonder what book my friend Mike would select on this occasion.


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