Skip to Main Content

NYU Reads

NYU Reads 2023-2024

Past Selections

2022-2023 Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

2021-2022 Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

2021 Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

2020 Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

2019-2020 Educated by Tara Westover

Read more about past NYU Reads selections.

NYU Reads: How the Word is Passed

The 2023-2024 NYU Reads selection is Clint Smith's How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America.

In How the Word Is Passed, author Clint Smith documents his travels to eight places in the United States (and one abroad)—to plantations, prisons, cemeteries, historical landmarks and cities, including New York City—to consider the gaps in our collective memory of American slavery. Through his reported conversations with fellow visitors to these spaces, Smith teases out the difference between history and nostalgia, between what happened and what we may have come to believe happened: the difference, for instance, between the perception that New York as a northern state opposed slavery, and the fact that by the mid-18th century, one in five people living in New York City was enslaved. 

How the Word Is Passed is a powerful reminder of the importance of historical research and an honest consideration of how this research plays out directly in our own lives today. Sensitively, patiently and persistently, Smith asks and answers deeply challenging questions: How have we been taught to remember? Whom do we memorialize?  Smith interrogates how we come to know what we know, models ways to question that knowledge, and shows readers how to be courageous enough to let new realizations in. 

How the Word Is Passed won the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and was named one of the top ten books of 2021 by the New York Times.

Getting the Book

How can I get copies of How the Word Is Passed?  NYU Langone Health users may request print copies through our Document Delivery service.  Print copies can be shipped to your home address or picked up through our Tisch/Kimmel, Orthopedics or Long Island locations.  NET ID users may access both e-book and physical copies of How the Word Is Passed through the NYU Division of Libraries.

Have a question?  Connect with us!