‘Beartown’ Becomes ESU’s New One Book Selection

Photo Credit/ Yaasmeen Piper
Fredrik Backman's "Beartown" tackles class differences, sexuality, parenting and sexual assault.

Yaasmeen Piper 


“Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead, and pulled the trigger,” wrote Swedish author Fredrik Backman. “This is the story of how we got there.”

Starting next month, ESU will dive into the small, hockey-loving community, that is staggered by a violent act in Backman’s “Beartown,” the new One Book, One Campus selection.

The novel focuses on the people living within this tiny town and their junior ice hockey team.

In Beartown you don’t just love hockey. You are hockey. You breathe it in like air. It fuels you and an entire community, and in Beartown, that fuel is entirely in the hands of a group of teenage boys.

Kevin, the star, Benji, Kevin’s best friend that would do anything for him, Amat, the rookie, and the rest of the hockey team have the entire weight of the town on their shoulders.

All eyes are on them as they enter the national semi-finals with the hopes that they can put Beartown on the map.

But, how does ESU relate to this tiny, Swedish hockey town?

“Beartown is a community that is underrated but has so many great things about it,” said Dr. Andrea McClanahan, Communication and women’s studies professor and co-chair of the One Book, One Campus committee. “I think in a lot of ways, from the public’s perception ESU is like that. We have really great things happening here, but people will make comments here like ‘oh, it’s just ESU.”

On the surface, “Beartown” seems like your run-of-the-mill small town and sports novel. However, as the book progresses, “Beartown” reveals a multitude of themes including pressures of success, class differences, sexuality, and sexual assault.

“I think what it does is crack open a lot of cultural narratives that we have going on,” said Title IX Coordinator, and One Book, One Campus committee member Dr. Doreen Tobin. “We idolize people in athletic positions, nationally and some of that is not very deserved. They are people, with some very positive characteristics and athletic abilities, but they are human beings and they have flaws as well.”

According to Dr. Tobin, the novel will most definitely create a community-wide discussion about rape culture and the way we handle sexual violence.

The conversation will incorporate nearly all of ESU’s departments, especially the health sciences, psychology, sociology and criminal justice. Committee members are also eager to hear from ESU’s student-athletes about their thoughts on the novel’s themes.

“The most important thing is getting educated on topics such as sexual assault, which makes people uncomfortable,” said senior Kaitlyn Good. “It’s supposed to make you feel uncomfortable because it is so real.”

Unlike the last two academic years, the One Book committee is not bringing in “Beartown’s” author. Instead, the committee is looking to bring in a sports professional to speak on athletics, community and sexual assault.

“We are really able to capture some of the really important things for us and American culture by bringing somebody in that is part of the sports culture in the U.S. and can shed some real light on it,” said Dr. Tobin.

“Beartown” is available now in the ESU bookstore or an online or local bookseller.

“I am anxious to hear what students and departments come up with in terms of ways to explore the various themes,” Dr. Tobin said. “The possibilities truly are endless.”

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