'Hijab Butch Blues' is next Common Reading selection

The coming-of-age memoir of a queer Muslim immigrant, who struggles to establish her identity while honoring her religious beliefs, has been chosen as the Common Reading selection for the upcoming academic year.  

Hijab Butch Blues” by Lamya H. was selected by a 15-member committee of UO students, faculty and staff that spent months reading, reviewing and discussing roughly 30 titles across many different genres. The overarching theme for the search was finding a title that dealt with the issues of belonging and the LGBTQ community.

Audrey Lucero, an associate professor of language and literacy education and the interim director of Common Reading, said the committee wanted to find a title that would be engaging and compelling to first-year students.

“We wanted something that would be challenging academically, but not an academic book, so we looked at a lot of genres, including nonfiction, fiction, graphic novels and memoirs,” she said. 

In the end, the protagonist’s struggles with “trying to find her community, to figure out how all her different identities can fit with each other, and finding out who she is” all seemed like “very resonant themes for students who are coming to college for the first time,” Lucero added.

The UO’s Common Reading program is designed to help build community across campus, through a shared reading experience. Launched within the Clark Honors College in 2009, the program expanded to include all first-year students in 2014, within the Division of Undergraduate Education and Student Success. All members of campus, including faculty and staff, are invited to participate.

Each year, the program presents an engaging selection, often a book, that will be the focus of a campus-wide discussion. Common Reading embraces topical subjects of concern to those in high schools and universities, to help students engage and hone critical thinking skills while respectfully engaging in sometimes difficult topics. It also offers the campus community an opportunity to meet authors, have lively discussions with peers, and experience the piece inside and outside of the classroom.

A copy of “Hijab Butch Blues” will be made available to all UO first-year undergraduate students during the 2024-25 academic year, said Amy Hughes Giard, assistant vice provost for first-year and transition student experiences. 

Students will be able to choose whether they would prefer a hard copy or a digital version of the book, she added, given the growing number of people who prefer to read e-books.

“Hijab Butch Blues” is written under a pseudonym and the author does not give in-person talks or interviews, as she is still a practicing Muslim. 

While that will likely preclude Common Reading from bringing Lamya H. to campus next year, the program will explore inviting other authors with similar experiences and works in her place, Hughes Giard said.

Common Reading is also open to partnering with entities and affinity groups across campus on programming that can enhance engagement on the subject matter and themes of “Hijab Butch Blues.” To discuss potential partnership opportunities, campus groups can email commonreading@uoregon.edu.

Lucero said part of the reason she felt the book was chosen by the selection committee was that it “provides a compelling counter message to a common narrative.”

“A lot of books around queer identity only send the message that you have to leave the church to truly find your identity,” she said. “I think the committee appreciated that this is something different.”

—Saul Hubbard, University Communications