In 2017, Dornsife College at the University of Southern California invited Andrew to develop BOOKPACKERS as a cross-humanities concept for undergraduate education.  In 2018, he was appointed an adjunct 'Professor of the Practice' in the USC Department of English.

BOOKPACKERS now exists on the USC Schedule of Classes in two forms - a 15-week ‘on campus’ class, and a 28-day ‘on the road’ experience. The latter, a 'Maymester' class held in the month after commencement, currently takes place in New Orleans (see here).

Meanwhile, Andrew is working with USC Dornsife to develop a series of experiential and immersive classes which will take students out into Los Angeles, to explore their home city through great L.A. novels.

All BOOKPACKERS classes at USC are accredited for General Education.

THE On-Campus class

The BOOKPACKERS 15-week ‘on campus’ class explores the varied regional cultures of America through the portal of classic and contemporary fiction.

Like Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, the course encourages empathy.  “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view,” Atticus says, “- until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  Fiction offers us landscapes peopled with characters who think differently to us;  reading novels region by region, we come to understand the different mindsets that make up the American whole.  At at time of profound cultural division, this emphasis on empathy has never been more relevant or important.

The class meets twice a week during the Fall Semester (45 hours total duration). 

Here’s a quick summary of the content:

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'The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler

The course begins in LA, USC’s home city.  We look at Southern California’s founding myths, and ask why the Golden Land boasts such a dark literary heritage.

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‘Olive Kitteridge’ by Elizabeth Strout

Yankee New England is ‘white and uptight’ - or so says Maine novelist Elizabeth Strout. Is she right?  We dig into classic and contemporary New England fiction to find out.

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'Deliverance’ by James Dickey

Appalachian culture is under the spotlight in Donald Trump’s America. We beat a trail through backwoods fiction in search of empathy and understanding. 

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‘Other Voices, Other Rooms’ by Truman Capote

The South wrestles with the weight of its history. Truman Capote’s brilliant first novel captures the contradictions of this fascinating and troubling region.

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‘Song of Solomon’ by Toni Morrison

'Song of Solomon' traces the African American trajectory backwards, from 20th c. Michigan to 19th c. Virginia. It's a novel with profound relevance in this racially divided nation.  

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‘My Ántonia’ by Willa Cather

Willa Cather’s nostalgic vision of life on the Plains traces the multiethnic roots of heartland America, a place that celebrates comity through a shared experience of resilience and survival.

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‘Ceremony’ by Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko chronicles Native American life in the desert Southwest. Her punchy and poetic work looks back to a traumatic past, and forward to the future.

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'Woman Hollering Creek’ by Sandra Cisneros

Mexican America fuses European and Native traditions, and pre-dates all other immigrant pathways. Cisneros’ stories celebrate the traditional and folkloric, whilst acknowledging an ongoing struggle for a slice of the American Dream. 

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‘Close Range’ by Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx’s stories explore contemporary lives in the Great West, a mythic land where the tough conditions pit rugged individuals against the power of capital and corporations.

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‘Typical American’ by Gish Jen

New York fiction is a world to itself, and could form the basis for a whole new Bookpackers’ course. We focus on New York as a place of ambition, and as the epicenter of the American ‘melting pot’.