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One Book One DU

One Book One DU
Season to Taste Book Cover

Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way

by Molly Birnbaum

One Book One DU

One Prompt

Your response to One Prompt is the beginning of your DU education. In reflecting on where we come from, we can better understand where we are, and where we're going. To that end, we ask that you take time to think deeply, to become comfortable with discomfort, and, above all, to approach the world mindful that our takes on it are colored by our experiences in it, and that a little empathy can go a long way in creating true understanding. 


As an aspiring chef, Molly Birnbaum paid particular attention to the scents of the kitchen, trusting smells to signal when a dish was perfectly cooked or seasoned just right. The neurological process of smell itself, however, never seemed to cross her mind: "It was a movement too complicated, too miniscule, and entirely too invisible for me to notice, let alone to care about." When a tragic accident severs the neural connections between her nose and the area of her brain responsible for scent perception, she struggles to understand and articulate the extent of her loss:

"I suddenly lived in an unimaginable world. One where my memories of scent were impossible to bring back. One where my loss was almost impossible to describe. I struggled with it. I avoided it. I didn't know who I was without my sense of smell."
This sudden loss prompts a journey of investigation, reflection, and recovery. Immersing herself in olfactory research—and its connections to taste, memory, security, and romance—Birnbaum develops a deeper appreciation for what she had once taken for granted.

We invite you to begin a similar process of investigation and reflection. Consider something you take for granted and what it might mean to lose it. It can be physical or metaphorical, concrete or abstract, tangible or intangible, personal or cultural, weighty or whimsical.

Tell a story that illustrates your connection to what you fear losing and considers the implications of this potential loss. Alternatively, what is something you've already lost and what has that loss meant to you? 


  • It can be physical (like smell) or metaphorical (like "voice"), concrete (a physical feature) or abstract (a defining personality trait), tangible (a favorite article of clothing or lucky trinket) or intangible (a connection to a person), personal (a pet or ability to participate in an activity) or cultural (a local monument or group visibility).
  • This doesn't need to be a "profound" loss; in fact, something "small" or whimsical might well yield a more interesting story. The tone doesn't need to match Birnbaum's, either. This story is an opportunity to play with and establish your unique voice.
  • You can use any number of narrative devices to render this story—characterization, dialogue, imagery, figurative language, scene setting, exposition, etc.
  • One pleasure of Birnbaum's writing is her use of rich detail. We tend to emphasize visual cues in narrative writing, but be inspired by Season to Taste: try to include a range of sensory details.
  • Feel free to use any genre and/or mode to share this story. Let's say you are considering your relationship to your voice or accent—might a podcast be a compelling way to share this story? Other options include, but are not limited to: photo essays, graphic stories, videos, poems, podcasts, songs, spoken word, theatrical performances, etc.
  • The only format requirement is the ability for your One Prompt response to be uploaded to Canvas. Students will be sent directions on how to access Canvas on August 1st .  Please submit your project to Canvas (first-year students) or your Orientation Leader (transfer students) by August 26th, 2018 . If you must delay submission of your response, please email your orientation leader to let them know.