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Themes from The Pickup

Student volunteers from the Tatkon Center and the Orientation Steering Committee read The Pickup this year... below are their identified themes, some may help in your reading of the book, your written response and in the discussion groups.

Tatkon Center Staff
Tatkon Center Staff
Orientation Steering Committee
Orientation Steering Committee

Students identified themes from reading of the book:


  • Racial, Ethnic, Social, Cultural, Geographical, Religious, Economic, Sexual, Gender... All restricted by a glass ceiling?
  • Coming from a less restrictive background into an area with limitations
  • Categories “black” vs. Middle-Eastern (or any “Other”) in an Anglo-conformist society

    What does your skin color mean?
    When do you disregard it, when are you proud?

  • Is identity about yourself or your community?
  • Coming to college
  • Finding your own identity

    Start of a new identity
    Defining who you are in relation to your activities

  • First year dorm experience of living with people from different backgrounds
  • Joining organizations to hold true to your identity and culture



  • Class, Socioeconomic status
  • Immigration, Historical background
  • Governmental/Political shaping of people’s views (e.g. media coverage of Isalm and of events in the Middle East)
  • Political tensions
  • Diversity
  • Interacting with people
  • Individual vs. Community interests


Power and Pride

  • Changing role of women in society – shift of power?
  • Manipulation/Persuasion
  • Love and Sex
  • Culture
  • Over-pride/Defensiveness
  • Shame: he think she’s ashamed of him but she doesn’t want him to know that she is ashamed of her family. Barriers of communication


Sex, Love and Romance

Blog: Love (?) in The Pickup

  • Inter-racial relationships and dating
  • Translation of “I love you” across cultures/languages
  • Sex as a form of communication
  • “Love” definition

    Subtle nuances
    All different types

  • Taboo sex
  • Is love blind?
  • Infatuation vs. true love
  • College relationships
  • Definition(s) – what is it? Is it changing?
  • Lingo: “hook up”
  • Expressing love
  • Do good relationships have/need all three?
  • Arranged marriages
  • Western love (Hollywood) vs. Non-Western love (Reality)



  • Restrictions against inter-fracial dating
  • Family expectations


  • Your own “Table”, Making one’s family vs. born into one
  • Having “families” in multiple places
  • Support vs. telling you what you do
  • Independence?
  • Subconscious way they’ve taught you to live
  • Traditional family vs. today’s real family. How do you define family
  • Family formed here and how that conflicts
  • Finding “friends for life” home or away


Conformity vs. Adaptability

  • Whose expectations are you conforming to?
  • Adapting but not conforming
  • Self-preservation
  • First year students change yourself adapt/conform
  • Rebirth
  • Who you really are

Willingness to conform
Willingness to adapt


Belief Systems

  • Freshmen have own comfort level, challenges
  • Molding by surroundings (“I’ll never…” changes)
  • Where do freshmen turn if family beliefs don’t match their experiences here?
  • Representation of religion (not judged, peaceful)
  • How religion comes into play (Islam)
  • Parallels between religions
  • Challenges to stereotypes and misperceptions
  • Religious vs. Spiritual
  • Can you not be religious and still have belief systems?



  • When Family/Personal views disconnect
  • Not meeting expectations (dropping pre-med, dating interracially)
  • Just being (at Cornell) having money to be (at Cornell). Bursar bill, rent, books
  • Pressure

    Parents (generational pressure)

  • Guilt of complaining when someone’s always got it worse
  • Giving back

    Teaching English,
    Promoting opportunities

  • Distance between beliefs and actions
  • Knowing your privileges (race, gender, class), Reconciliation
  • Socio-ethnic tension (ex: present USA and in Africa)
  • “Educational” programs on how to get guilt out