2023-2024 Feather River College - Book in Common:

Shawna was overcome by the claustrophobia, the heat, the smoke, the fire, all just down the canyon and up the ravine. She was feeling the adrenaline, but also the terror of doing something for the first time. She knew how to run with a backpack; they had trained her physically. But that’s not training for flames. That’s not live fire.

California’s fire season gets hotter, longer, and more extreme every year ― fire season is now year-round. Of the thousands of firefighters who battle California’s blazes every year, roughly 30 percent of the on-the-ground wildland crews are inmates earning a dollar an hour. Approximately 200 of those firefighters are women serving on all-female crews.

In Breathing Fire, Jaime Lowe expands on her revelatory work for The New York Times Magazine. She has spent years getting to know dozens of women who have participated in the fire camp program and spoken to captains, family and friends, correctional officers, and camp commanders. The result is a rare, illuminating look at how the fire camps actually operate ― a story that encompasses California’s underlying catastrophes of climate change, economic disparity, and historical injustice, but also draws on deeply personal histories, relationships, desires, frustrations, and the emotional and physical intensity of firefighting.

Lowe’s reporting is a groundbreaking investigation of the prison system, and an intimate portrayal of the women of California’s Correctional Camps who put their lives on the line, while imprisoned, to save a state in peril.

Purpose of Book in Common

Many colleges and universities adopt a common reading for the academic year. The purpose of a common reading is to create campus and community wide intellectual discussion about a significant current topic, social issue, or literary work. By presenting various opportunities to engage with the book, students, staff, faculty, and community can develop an understanding of the book within different contexts and points-of-view. Books, as repositories of knowledge, records of experience, and explorations of personal and cultural themes, foster deep and complex understanding and provide the basis for a healthy and vibrant society. The Book in Common is one way that FRC dedicates itself to giving students the tools to engage, comprehend, and shape the world around them.

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