In her novel Night Talk, author Elizabeth Cox tells a moving story of two girls who, though they grew up in the same house, reflect on the alternate realities of white and black society. They are influenced by both the massive social changes sweeping the country during the Civil Rights era and by the extraordinary human capacities for fear, hate and love. In the end, the world they share under cover of darkness, through their candid nighttime conversations, proves to be the strongest force of all.

The book centers on important issues that college students all over the country have explored in various ways for decades. Wofford’s Class of 2018 focused on them as they read Night Talk over the summer as this year’s selection for Wofford’s The Novel Experience first-year student reading program.

The Novel Experience is a program that connects the members of the incoming class with each other through a shared experience and a shared meal. 

“Many colleges offer their incoming students a common reading experience,” says Dr. Sally A. Hitchmough, associate professor of English and one of The Novel Experience coordinators. “We want students to arrive expecting to read, write and discuss ideas, because that’s what college is about. The town-and-gown experience is special. It helps the students get acquainted with Spartanburg, and it shows that learning isn’t separate from having fun.”

On the first day of their Humanities 101 class, all first-year students receive an essay prompt for the novel. During the first week of college, the classes come together for fun and games in Leonard Auditorium as they select a local restaurant where they will go for dinner and discussion of the book. The best essays are compiled into a booklet for The Novel Experience Convocation, where the author speaks.

This year, the restaurant selection night was Sept. 2, and Cox addressed the students and members of the public in Leonard Auditorium on Sept. 23 for the convocation. She also was the guest of the first session of this year’s Writers Series on the evening of Sept. 22, which also was open to the public.

This is the 13th year of The Novel Experience.

Previous books and authors in the series are:

  • Middle Passage, Charles Johnson
  • Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
  • Waiting, Ha Jin
  • Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks
  • Paco’s Story, Larry Heineman
  • Rich in Love, Josephine Humphries
  • A Gracious Plenty, Sheri Reynolds
  • One Foot in Eden, Ron Rash
  • When the Emperor Was Divine, Julie Otsuka
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
  • Old School, Tobias Wolff
  • One Amazing Thing, Chitra Divakaruni


By Laura Hendrix Corbin