Summer Reading Program

Illinois Wesleyan University’s Summer Reading Program is designed as an opportunity for incoming students to participate in a shared intellectual conversation about a common text with their Gateway Colloquium classmates and the University community (faculty, staff, alumni and student leaders) during Turning Titan: New Student Orientation

2021 Book Selection 

What the Eyes Don't See
Mona Hanna-Attisha

What the Eyes Don't See Book CoverIn response to IWU's 2021-2022 intellectual theme of Health, Healing and Humanity, and the university’s mission of social justice, environmental sustainability, and diversity, What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Mona Hanna-Attisha has been selected for the 2021 Summer Reading Program.

In light of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, we can all reflect on what it means to have an invisible foe in our midst, and to identify with what it is like to look to authority figures to help protect us, especially our most vulnerable. We also see the choices and decisions people make in times of crisis - when they are at their best and their worst.

In What the Eyes Don’t See, Dr. Hanna-Attisha takes us on a parallel journey of what happens when those in authority make bad decisions, and overlook the effects of those choices on one of the most vulnerable and precious resources, our children. Dr. Hanna-Attisha never believed the phrase “you can’t fight City Hall.” Upon discovery the children of Flint, Michigan were being poisoned by the very city water their families paid for, Dr. Hanna-Attisha stood up to those with power who denied their roles in this public health tragedy.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha illustrates the choices we have to protect our diverse communities and our ability to become social justice warriors while monitoring our environments. In the midst of the worst, Dr. Hanna-Attisha demonstrates how to do our best. How do ordinary people respond to protect others in extraordinary ways? Who is responsible to raise alerts? What leads the most vulnerable amongst us to be repeatedly ignored and victimized? What is the government's role in keeping us safe and what happens when they don’t?

Join us in reflecting on all the ways each of us is responsible to contribute to Health, Healing, and Humanity.


A copy of What the Eyes Don't See by Mona Hanna-Attisha will be mailed to all first-year students who have deposited for the Fall 2021 by the end of June 2021.  Students are expected read and reflect upon Hanna-Attisha’s book, and be prepared to discuss their thoughts and reflections at Turning Titan: New Student Orientation.    

Click HERE for reflection and discussion questions.

About the Book

Click HERE to watch a quick YouTube video about the book.

Here is the inspiring story of how Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, alongside a team of researchers, parents, friends, and community leaders, discovered that the children of Flint, Michigan, were being exposed to lead in their tap water—and then battled her own government and a brutal backlash to expose that truth to the world. Paced like a scientific thriller, What the Eyes Don’t See reveals how misguided austerity policies, broken democracy, and callous bureaucratic indifference placed an entire city at risk. And at the center of the story is Dr. Mona herself—an immigrant, doctor, scientist, and mother whose family’s activist roots inspired her pursuit of justice.

What the Eyes Don’t See is a riveting account of a shameful disaster that became a tale of hope, the story of a city on the ropes that came together to fight for justice, self-determination, and the right to build a better world for their—and all of our—children.

(Description retrieved from Penguin Random House.)

About the Author

Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH, FAAP, is a physician, scientist, and activist who has been called to testify twice before the United States Congress, awarded the Freedom of Expression Courage Award by PEN America, and named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

(Biography retrieved from Penguin Random House.)


Please visit Ames Library LibGuide for a variety of additional resources about the topics covered in this book selection, including a video link to Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha's remarks on IWU's campus in 2017.