Western Illinois University: Macomb Campus
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Foundation & Development
Felix & Nancy Chu
Chu Multicultural Book Collection
Dr. Felix and Nancy Chu have committed $10,000 to University Libraries for establishment of the Chu Multicultural Book Collection. The collection will feature works of fiction with social content, particularly featuring stories of immigrants or people seeking to become immigrants. Books in the collection will include those with themes of cultural, ethnic, and racial issues, and all books receiving the Bellwether Award, established by author Barbara Kingsolver in support of social change.
The Bellwether Prize for Fiction is unique; it advocates serious literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. The prize seeks to support socially responsible literature; that which describes categorical human transgressions in a way that compels readers to examine their own prejudices.
“Western’s core values support internationalization of the curriculum and the campus,” said Felix Chu, cataloging and assessment librarian for the University Libraries. “This collection is one way for people to understand different cultures.”
“Fiction is a better teacher in this instance,” continued Chu. “Fiction is read by more people, it is easily understood, and people tend to remember stories more than facts. Fiction is one of the easiest ways to learn about and understand complex social issues.”
Cultural themes and dealing with differences are of personal and professional interest to the Chus. Felix spent his first 12 years in Taiwan, a few more in Argentina, then was sent to the United States to finish high school and complete college. Felix became sensitized to the large and small differences when people of different languages and cultures interact, not only through his own experience, but also through his study of languages and reading of literature.
Nancy, who retired in 2005 from the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, always brought children’s books on cultural issues into her classes on children’s literature and storytelling. She established the Children's Literature Examination Center in the late 1980s to enrich children’s materials for teaching. These included fiction and informational books that cover multicultural topics. She often would ask Felix for his perspective on books such as Little Black Sambo or Five Chinese Brothers. “My take on these stories would be completely different than that of the students,” said Felix. “In this way, Nancy would demonstrate to her students how we all see and think about things differently.”
The Chus have donated several books of their own to get the collection started and provided the funding to build the collection. “Western is a good place for our philanthropy,” explains Chu. “We came here in 1984; our son was only two weeks old. Nancy & I both were able to work; we like it here and this is where we raised our son.”
Chu also is familiar now with the nuances and unique characteristics of the small, rural towns around Macomb. A cyclist, he rides the back roads of the area and observes the similarities and differences from Macomb to Industry to Adair, etc. “I hope our collection will cause people to look at things in new and different ways. The main point is that when people read stories, they retain more than when reading facts. Our collection is a way to share stories from which people will learn about other people.”