Royal Holloway is partnering with the Kingston University’s Big Read for the first time in 2022. The award-winning shared reading initiative provides a common talking point for new students, who will receive a special edition of Phil Stamper’s book, ‘The Gravity of Us’, before joining Royal Holloway in September.
The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
Now in its eighth year, the Kingston University Big Read title changes each year with a book chosen from a longlist – a staggering 143 this year – and a shortlist of six. A panel of students and staff across different universities came together to select the chosen book.
‘The Gravity of Us’, published by Bloomsbury, follows teenager and social media influencer, Cal, whose life is uprooted when his dad is picked as a candidate by NASA for the world’s first mission to Mars. The family have to move to Texas, USA, where Cal meets Leon, and a relationship develops.
Phil Stamper is an American national and graduated with a Masters in publishing with creative writing from Kingston University and has since had four books published with LGBTQ+ themes.
His debut novel was inspired by the families of the NASA astronauts making space explorations during the 1960s and the author hopes students will enjoy the book’s themes.
Phil Stamper said: “It’s a coming-of-age story, which I hope many students will relate to as they make the leap to become first year students.
“I know many will be apprehensive about starting their own journeys, but I think there’s something that can bring a community together – and that’s reading.”
Professor James Knowles, Senior Vice-Principal (Education) at Royal Holloway, said: “We’re delighted to be joining the Kingston University Big Read for the first time this year.
“We have selected this book, with its articulation of LGBTQ+ issues, because it reflects the inclusive values we prize highly as a community at Royal Holloway.
“The book is an offer of welcome to all our new students. It explores ideas and messages that may resonate with these new students as they experience an important change in their life – dealing with a new place, encountering more diverse peoples and cultures, and planning for their future. Indeed, we hope The Gravity of Us creates a reflective space for all our students to unpack their experiences as they take up those new paths.”
Professor Alison Baverstock, Director of the Big Read, said: “This year had seen the largest number of books nominated by the university community. It was a tight contest and no shoo-in. It was a real testament to Stamper’s writing that both our partner institutions, St George’s and Royal Holloway were very keen on his book too.”
Kingston University’s Big Read project has been rolled out more widely across the sector, with St George’s, University of London partnering with Kingston University for the fourth year and Royal Holloway taking part for the first time.
Assistant Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing, Kate Ager, said she was thrilled The Gravity of Us had been selected and added: “This is such a brilliant initiative that we are proud to be part of. Phil’s books are both thoughtful and thought-provoking, while being empowering and inclusive LGBTQ+ reads.”
New students currently holding an offer to study at Royal Holloway will sent be more information by email.