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One Book

Even As We Breathe Book Cover

Image Credit: From Even as We Breathe by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle. Copyright © 2023 byAnnette Saunooke Clapsaddle. Reprinted by permission of The University Press of Kentucky. All Rights Reserved.


2024-2025 Selection

Even As We Breathe - A Novel

Selected by a university-wide committee to be complimentary with the WCU Campus Theme: WNC/Mountain Life, both the One Book program and Campus Theme provide a common intellectual experience defined by AAC&U as one of ten high impact practices.

About Western Carolina University's Campus Theme

The 2024-2025 One Book Selection Committee consists of faculty, staff and student representatives from across campus.  The selection process begins with the announcement of the Campus Theme, involves a request for nominations from the WCU community, and finalizes through discussions within the committee (total approximate time is 5-6 months).

Each entering first-year student is given a book as part of their welcome packet during Orientation.  Students use this book in First-Year Experience courses, in content courses and can engage with the book through on campus events and programs.

Nineteen-year-old Cowney Sequoyah yearns to escape his hometown of Cherokee, North Carolina, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. When a summer job at Asheville's luxurious Grove Park Inn and Resort brings him one step closer to escaping the hills that both cradle and suffocate him, he sees it as an opportunity. The experience introduces him to the beautiful and enigmatic Essie Stamper—a young Cherokee woman who is also working at the inn and dreaming of a better life.

With World War II raging in Europe, the resort is the temporary home of Axis diplomats and their families, who are being held as prisoners of war. A secret room becomes a place where Cowney and Essie can escape the white world of the inn and imagine their futures free of the shadows of their families' pasts. Outside of this refuge, however, racism and prejudice are never far behind, and when the daughter of one of the residents goes missing, Cowney finds himself accused of abduction and murder.

Even As We Breathe invokes the elements of bone, blood, and flesh as Cowney navigates difficult social, cultural, and ethnic divides. Betrayed by the friends he trusted, he begins to unearth deeper mysteries as he works to prove his innocence and clear his name. This richly written debut novel explores the immutable nature of the human spirit and the idea that physical existence, with all its strife and injustice, will not be humanity's lasting legacy.

Read more about the book.

Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle

Image credit: (c) Chris Mueller

Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), holds degrees from Yale University and the College of William and Mary. Her work Going to Water won the Morning Star Award for Creative Writing from the Native American Literature Symposium and was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. She is coeditor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies and serves on the board of trustees for the North Carolina Writers' Network. She resides in Qualla, North Carolina.


Event/Program Date Location Contact


One Book Programming for WCU:
Many programs are being designed to help students make the valuable connection between the book and the theme, both flagship programs are defined as Common Intellectual Experiences, one of ten High Impact Practices defined by AAC&U.

AAC&U's High Impact Practices.

About the 2023-2024 Campus Theme: Community and Belongingness

One Book sponsered programs are designed to meet the requirements for Degree Plus

The mission of the One Book program is to engage first-year students, as well as the campus community, in a common intellectual experience that promotes critical thinking and interdisciplinary conversation. This experience will allow participants to strengthen academic skills, create connections with peers, instructors, and community members, and relate universal themes to personal experience and identity. The program seeks to reflect WCU’s core values and responsibilities as a regionally engaged university.

One Book committee members will serve as ambassadors who aid in integrating reading selection themes into course curricula, campus events, service learning opportunities, and departmental goals. The selection committee comprises individuals from across campus, ensuring that values and views of all academic units are considered and represented.


  • Foster a sense of community among the first-year and second year classes through shared academic experiences both inside and outside the classroom

  • Provide students with a shared experience upon which to engage in dialogue with WCU fellow students, faculty, and staff

  • Promote interdisciplinary involvement in meaningful learning surrounding themes and content within the One Book

  • Introduce students to the high academic and intellectual expectations at WCU

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