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News Release

June 9, 2006

Incoming Smith Students Assigned to Read Kidder Work

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—In preparation for their first year at Smith College, more than 650 incoming students will learn about a man whose selflessness might one day inspire their own great deeds.

 “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World,” a recent book by local author Tracy Kidder, is the required summer reading assignment for the Class of 2010. The nonfiction book describes the work of Farmer, the Harvard-trained physician and medical anthropologist who co-founded Partners in Health, an international charitable organization that provides health care and advocacy to the sick, poor and needy in Haiti, Peru and other countries.

Entering students will discuss Kidder’s book with their new housemates on Sept. 5 in conversations led by faculty members and administrators, including Smith President Carol T. Christ.

Kidder, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who has taught at Smith, will join Farmer on a visit to the college that evening to read from the book and discuss Farmer’s work with audience members in John M. Greene Hall. A reception and book signing will follow.  The event is free and open to the public.

Written from Kidder’s first-person perspective as he developed a friendship with Farmer and visited him over several years, “Mountains Beyond Mountains” gives an intimate account of Farmer’s compassion and practical application of health service to people who cannot afford it. In the rugged Central Plateau of Haiti, Farmer first began his service to the poor while still a medical student, opening a hospital, Zanmi Lasante (Creole for “Partners in Health”), that serves a population of more than 100,000.

As Partners in Health has grown and Farmer’s service and scholarship have broadened, Kidder’s observations portray a man driven by a desire to balance the vast inequalities that subject the world’s poor to unnecessary hunger, death or permanent injury from diseases that are treatable with the right medicine. For many years, even as Farmer’s reach has expanded internationally, he has remained in personal touch with those who benefit from his endeavors, often directly applying treatments and offering counsel.

“Paul Farmer is a remarkable person,” said Tom Riddell, dean of the first-year class who chairs the committee that chose the summer reading assignment, “and Tracy Kidder is a top-notch nonfiction writer. We chose ‘Mountains Beyond Mountains’ because it’s a very compelling and well-told story about an understanding of the world and a commitment to combating inequities and disease. It’s about global poverty, the science of health and treatment, responsibility, dedication, organization and institutional and international politics.”

Kidder’s book joins past summer reading selections such as “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “My Year of Meats” by 1980 Smith graduate Ruth Ozeki Lounsbury, “The Gangster We Are All Looking For” by Smith faculty member Lê Thi Diem Thúy, and last year’s choice, “Kettle Bottom,” by Diane Gilliam Fisher.

Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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