Community Themes

Brewster Hall

2020 Empathy

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, will be used in support of our school theme of empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Between the World and Me is written as a letter from the author to his teenage son about being black in America. It pivots between personal and historical, focusing both on America’s racial history and current civil rights crisis. As we have seen again poignantly this spring, systemic racism in America devalues black lives. Racism diminishes, demoralizes, and dehumanizes. We hope to use this text and a series of programs to help Suffield’s students and faculty engage in the realities of systemic racism and help strengthen our community and the world.

2019 Journeys

Journeys is Suffield Academy's school theme for the 2019-2020 academic year. Used as both a noun and a verb, journey refers to traveling. We would like to focus on appreciating our personal journeys, and being intentional about pursuing goals. Our community text, Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, encourages us to discover what matters most to us—our dreams and hopes—and make these as priorities as we proceed through our lives. We hope this theme will help Suffield students and faculty members identify and prioritize core goals and values, and closely focus on them as their personal and collective journeys unfold

2018 Solitude

Solitude is the state of being alone, especially when this is peaceful and pleasant. It is a time for thinking and rest, an opportunity for contemplation, growth in personal spirituality, and development of self. Solitude is empowering as it reconnects us with ourselves. We have selected, Silence in the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge as our community text.

2017 Community

The notion of community refers to a unified body of individuals living in a particular, common space. Suffield Academy emphasizes the importance of community life, of sharing goals, purposes, and values. A strong sense of community helps people feel valued. Members learn that strength comes from cohesion and empathy. Over the course of the 2017-2018 academic year, Suffield’s students and faculty will explore the topic of community, and how cohesion and commitment to others enhance learning and life.

To this end, we have selected, Tribe by Sebastian Junger as our all school read. This book explores what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty, belonging, and working toward a common good. It also highlights the military and the intimate bonds that develop within groups. It reflects upon the concept of community and how it develops and sustains us.

2016 Service

At Suffield Academy we believe in helping others and giving something back. One of the most important aspects of someone’s life is service. When you make yourself available to assist others you learn more, and grow, and develop, in immeasurable ways. Many of us have the right intentions, we strive to be, not to seem.

To this end, service is our theme for next year and we have selected as our community text, A Good Man. This book, by Mark Shriver, is a moving tribute to his father and his father’s accomplishments. Shriver highlights his father’s years of public service, including his founding of the Peace Corp, and his work helping people unable to help themselves. As his father battled Alzheimer’s, Shriver learned much about him through listening to the stories of his many visitors.

2015 Balance

Balance is a noun and a verb, describing a quality of being and action. It refers to a state of equilibrium and even distribution of weight. It speaks to mental steadiness and emotional stability. A life in balance requires harmony of internal and external elements as we pursue our ambitions and goals. Over the course of the academic year, we will examine how strategies focused on balance can lead to clarity and success.

To this end, we have selected as our community text, The Boys in the Boat. This book, by acclaimed author, Daniel James Brown, tells the story of nine working-class boys from the American West who upset the most elite crew teams in the world and qualified for the 1936 Olympics. At the Berlin Olympics, they went on to stun the world by winning a gold medal. This is a story of the Depression, the beginnings of the Nazi state, resilience, optimism, teamwork, and what true effort may bring, especially when people pull together. Daniel James Brown interviewed the surviving rowers and their families and accessed personal journals and letters to write this riveting work of non-fiction.

2014 Conviction

Conviction is a strong belief or firmly held opinion. It is an unshakable feeling without need for proof or evidence. It is making and maintaining a commitment. We want to explore how people form convictions and how they impact our lives? For example, we are told to do what is “right” and not to let others adversely influence our decisions. Yet, how do we know what is right? Where does “wrong” begin? Conviction is a fascinating and complicated topic that should make for rich exploration across our curriculum and programs.

To this end, we have selected as our community text, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. This book, by acclaimed author, Jamie Ford, is especially relevant in today’s world. It is a story of conflicted loyalties, devotion, and family. It explores a darker side of American culture during World War II that we would rather not face, and thus illustrates a different type of injustice inflicted by war. There are no battlefield scenes but we experience the damage done to the hearts and the humanity of individual people.

2013 Identity

The concept of identity is centered on understanding who we are as people. It is the distinguishing characteristic belonging to an individual or shared by members of a particular group. Identity is our set of attributes, beliefs, desires, or principles of action that lead us and shape our self-image and who we are. Our identity helps us relate to others and identify with certain groups. Identity is not a boundary; it is a construction of how we identify ourselves that evolves and shapes who we want to be.

To this end, we have selected as our community text, They Called me Uncivilized. This book, by acclaimed author, Walter Littlemoon, is a memoir of his life as a Lakota man experiencing Native American life. In telling his story, he describes his own life, as well as the history of his family. From his early years on a reservation, to a U.S. government boarding school, to the 1973 Occupation of Wounded Knee, Walter Littlemoon examines his life, and who he is.

2012 Resilience

In choosing resilience as our theme, we seek to examine the essence of how people react to life’s challenges. Resilience has a technical definition and is also used to describe people. Technically, it is about elasticity and the power to return to shape after being bent or stretched. Yet when used in a human context, resilience refers to the quality of recovering and regaining spirit after facing adversity. It applies to many aspects of our experiences, as people can be resilient in some areas but not others.

To this end, we have selected as our community text The Art of Racing in the Rain. This book, by acclaimed author, Garth Stein, is written from a dog’s perspective. Enzo is a lab terrier mix adopted as a puppy from a farm outside of Seattle by Denny Swift, a race car driver. Denny meets and marries Eve, has a daughter, Zoe, and works to pursue his life-long dream as a professional racer. When Denny hits an extended rough patch, Enzo remains his most steadfast, if silent, supporter. Enzo is a reliable companion who is frustrated by his inability to speak and his lack of opposable thumbs, and hopes for the day when his life as a dog will be over and he can be reborn as a man.

2011 Gratitude

Gratitude refers to being thankful and feeling a sense of appreciation. It is generally an emotion people feel after they have received help. In examining this theme we will also look at the reciprocal nature of gratitude and how we best respond to the generosity of others. Our sense is that too often in today’s world we do not stop to be thankful of others, or recognize the role others play in our successes.

To this end, we have selected as our community text Of Beetles and Angels. This book, by acclaimed author, Mawi Asgedom, is the story of a young boy’s journey from a refugee camp in the Sudan, to an affluent American suburb, and eventually to Harvard University. When he was just three, his life in Ethiopia was torn by civil war. With his mother and two siblings, he trekked hundreds of miles to Sudan, dodging hyenas and slave traders, to join his father in a refugee camp. Within the next few years, he and his family arrived outside of Chicago. Mawi overcame poverty, self-doubt, and racial prejudice to graduate with honors from Harvard.

Throughout Mawi’s journey, gratitude remained a key concept. We will be welcoming him to campus on October 24 to speak about gratitude and his journey, as well as his message to young people, “to decide what character you have and what goals you want to achieve, and step up and say, ‘this is who I am, this is the kind of person I want to be.’”

2010 Loyalty

We are defining loyalty as the faithful adherence and devoted attachment to a cause, person, place or custom. Loyalty is a complicated concept. While it is often understood to have positive connotations, blind loyalty to others can certainly have negative consequences. With this theme we will examine loyalty in its different facets.

To this end, we have selected as our community text Half Broke Horses. This book, the second by acclaimed author, Jeannette Walls, is a ‘true-life’ novel that transports us to the early 20th century American West. It is the story of Wall’s grandmother, Lily. Told in a first-person voice that is authentic and triumphant we see Lily through tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and personal tragedy. She bristled at prejudice of all kinds, against women, Native Americans, and anyone else who did not fit the mold. Throughout it all, Lily remained fiercely loyal: to her family, to education, and to her vast ranch.

Community Text

2009 Courage

First They Killed my Father


2010 Loyalty

Half Broke Horses

Jeannette Walls 

2011 Gratitude

Of Beetles and Angels                                   

Mawi Asgedom   

2012 Resilience

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Garth Stein                             

2013 Identity

They Called me Uncivilized

Walter Littlemoon                   

2014 Conviction

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Jamie Ford                             

2015 Balance

The Boys in the Boat

Daniel James Brown

2016 Service 

A Good Man

Mark Shriver                          

2017 Community


Sebastian Junger                    

2018 Solitude

Silence in the Age of Noise

Erling Kagge

2019 Journey

The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch 

2020 Empathy

Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates