Author connects street addressing to belonging

Author Dierdre Mask is interviewed by Josh Jensen, assistant professor and chair of the first-year rhetoric and writing program, about her book, “The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power” on Wednesday in the Athletics Pavilion. The discussion was hosted for freshmen in the FLEX program. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook
Author Dierdre Mask is interviewed by Josh Jensen, assistant professor and chair of the first-year rhetoric and writing program, about her book, “The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power” on Wednesday in the Athletics Pavilion. The discussion was hosted for freshmen in the FLEX program. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook

Taylor Fukunaga
Staff Writer 

The University of La Verne’s One Book, One University author Deirdre Mask discussed her book and this year’s selection, “The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth and Power,” Wednesday before a nearly full house in the Athletic Pavilion. Mask also gave a talk in Morgan Auditorium. 

Mask, who is from North Carolina and is a graduate of Harvard College, Harvard Law School and the National University of Ireland, is a working lawyer as well as a writer. She has also taught at both Harvard and the London School of Economics. 

“The Address Book” follows Mask’s storytelling as she reflects on the themes of social, political and economic connections to what street addresses mean in different areas around the world, such as Europe, Africa, Japan and Korea.  

“We paint power on the roads,” Mask said. “This is how we express power.”

Mask connected the importance of street addressing to a sense of belonging. She said that having an address allows someone to bank, vote, receive mail, and take part in services from the government. The first question people will often be asked for identification is their address, she said.

“I learned that there were millions of people in the world who didn’t have addresses, and that’s what inspired me to write this book,” Mask said. “It’s difficult to do anything without one and (this) reflects the power dynamics in our society.” 

Mask said that people attach themselves so closely with their street names that it becomes a part of their identity. She often referenced this idea in chapters of “The Address Book” and the stories she collected in the countries she visited to show how important this part of their identity was on a global scale. 

“People want addresses to be included and to be counted,” Mask said.

Author Dierdre Mask talks to University of La Verne freshman about her book, “The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power” Wednesday in the Athletics Pavilion. The book was chosen for this year’s One Book One University program. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook
Author Dierdre Mask talks to University of La Verne freshman about her book, “The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power” Wednesday in the Athletics Pavilion. The book was chosen for this year’s One Book One University program. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook

Discussion with the mostly student audience followed Mask’s lecture.  

“The book tells you everything you think you didn’t need to know, but you do need to know,” Ahsha Jones, freshman psychology major, said. “This is history that we don’t learn on a day-to-day basis, and reading this was so eye-opening.” 

Jones was selected to introduce Mask at the campus-wide lecture in the Morgan Auditorium. 

“Mask used this story approach to each place that she wrote about, and I enjoyed the diversity of the book,” freshman criminology major Isabella Arrues said. 

“I think the lecture was very successful for what we were trying to accomplish in the One Book program,” Ryan Brown, adjunct professor of writing said. “This really humanizes the book for students who have read it and allows them to see that there’s more dimensions that we would otherwise appreciate.” 

Mask said that it was humbling to know that there are people reading “The Address Book.”

“Being able to engage with such a thoughtful audience at La Verne was so meaningful to me,” Mask said. 

The One Book, One University initiative grew from the efforts to provide meaningful experiences to University students through works of literature. One Book is assigned reading for freshmen FLEX sections.

Taylor Fukunaga can be reached at taylor.fukunaga@laverne.edu.

Sheridan Lambrook, a senior journalism major with a concentration in visual journalism, is photography editor and a staff writer for the Campus Times.

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