Common Read author Chloé Cooper Jones encourages vulnerability and curiosity

Chloe Cooper Jones at a book signing
Chloe Cooper Jones at a book signing
Author Chloé Cooper Jones speaks with students following her talk in Mills Chapel.

The author of Easy Beauty shared the beauty she found during her visit to Sweet Briar.

Posted on April 12, 2024

“Take as many classes as you can with this faculty,” was among the advice author Chloé Cooper Jones gave Sweet Briar College students during her recent visit to campus.

Cooper Jones is a professor, journalist and author of the memoir East Beauty, Sweet Briar’s 2024 Common Read selection. The book was named a best book of 2022 by The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, TIME Magazine, and was a finalist for the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Memoir. She was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist in Feature Writing in 2020. She is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and is an Associate Professor of Writing at Columbia University.

Author Chloé Cooper Jones speaks with students during her visit to Sweet Briar College.During her visit to campus, Cooper Jones joined Assistant Professor Anne Elise Thomas’ section of Core 130, Women and Gender in the World, visited with Associate Professor Chris Penfield’s Philosophy of Body/Consciousness course, answered questions about her creative process and the industry during a lively Q&A session moderated by Assistant Professor Susannah Nevison, toured the campus, and presented a thoughtful talk in the Mills Chapel in the evening to the Sweet Briar community and the general public on her work and the value of art in culture and for ourselves.

It was that campus tour with Admissions Ambassador Olivia Heffernan ’25, followed by an insider’s view of the greenhouse and other agricultural sites with Associate Professor Lisa Powell, though, that seemed to have a special impact on her. “I got on a golf cart with Olivia and she took me to the beautiful corners of this campus and I forgot everything I was stressed about. I was just with the land; it was as simple as that. I was just with the lettuce. I was so excited to be with the things that other people are making and growing in this space.”

She encouraged the students to be vulnerable in their academic and personal journey and to build a broad foundation of knowledge.

“If I were an undergrad here I would definitely use the kiln; I’m taking ceramics. I’m learning all that I can about lettuce. I’m taking Chris’ [Penfield] philosophy classes. And I’m learning everything I can about the ecology of this place; ‘The Land Is Art’ from Tracy [Hamilton]. And then I would leave this place and say, ‘I think I have something to say and I have this base of knowledge to speak in a way that is particular.’”

The annual Common Read provides the students, faculty, and staff of Sweet Briar with a shared experience, fosters discussion on a wide range of issues, and introduces us all to new perspectives through literature. Recent Common Read selections include Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s My Monticello, Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odysseyby Homer, Madeline Miller’s Circe, Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, and Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work The Sixth Extinction.

Those who were not able to attend Chloé Cooper Jones’ talk in Mills Chapel can watch a recording of the event here.