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Three years ago, it was an undergraduate senior thesis. Now, it’s the basis of the Class of 2026 Pre-read.

'Every Day the River Changes' by Jordan Salama ’19 announced as Class of 2026 pre-read

<h5>Jordan Salama ’19, author of “Every Day the River Changes”, speaking at Class Day in 2019.</h5>
<h6>Courtesy of Jordan Salama</h6>
Jordan Salama ’19, author of “Every Day the River Changes”, speaking at Class Day in 2019.
Courtesy of Jordan Salama

The annual Princeton ‘pre-read’ for the Class of 2026 will be “Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena,” written by Jordan Salama ’19, according to an announcement on April 28.

Salama describes himself as a “writer, journalist, and producer,” according to his website. He has covered issues on climate change, letter writing, and American Jewish life for The New York Times. He has also interviewed a Syrian traveling salesman in the Andes and was the producer for a radio feature about a cross-country railroad journey that made an appearance on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. 

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Salama says one of his primary inspirations is cultural reciprocity and using stories as the medium to create connections between societies across the world. He stated on his website that he’s “most passionate [about] telling stories about people and nature that connect cultures and continents.”

His most recent work, the November 2021 publication of “Every Day the River Changes,” details his journey down the Rio Magdalena, the longest river in Colombia stretching almost 1,000 miles from the heart of the Andes to its delta terminus at the Caribbean Sea. 

Following a campus visit organized by the Princeton’s J-Lats, Princeton’s Jewish-Latinx student organization, back in December 2021, Salama spoke with The Daily Princetonian about his book. 

“Colombia is filled with these stories. There are an unbelievable quantity of tales that people tell along this river, which is a really special thing in itself,” Salama said at the time. 

Salama is of Argentine, Syrian, and Iraqi Jewish descent, and in this travelogue, he “writes against stereotype and toward the rich lives of those he meets” throughout his escapade, according to the description of his book.

Among the people in his book, the description says, are “a canoe builder, biologists who study invasive hippopotamuses, a Queens transplant managing a failing hotel, a jeweler practicing the art of silver filigree, and a traveling librarian whose donkeys, Alfa and Beto, haul books to rural children.”

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Salama’s work stems from reporting originally undertaken in fulfillment of Salama’s senior thesis, which won the Ricardo Piglia Award and Stanley J. Stein Prize for Best Senior Thesis in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Princeton University.

In the Pre-read announcement, Salama described the book as “a story about a young person’s journey down a river, how the people he met changed him and changed his view of the world.” 

In addition, Salama mentioned that he “hope[s] that when you read it, you think about all the ways that you can chase your own passions at Princeton, [and] that you can pursue projects that may seem ambitious, challenging, but exciting to you at its core.”

In an interview with The Daily Princetonian, incoming first-year Amy Liu from New York stated that she’s “really excited about [the] Pre-read, because of the chance to fall in love with a book” alongside new classmates.

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“It sounds like a fun, no-stress way to start off the academic year and get to know the people I’ll be spending the next four years with,” she said.

In a message to the ‘Prince,’ Salama stated that he is “extremely honored and grateful that my book was selected as this year’s pre-read.”

“I can’t wait for the chance to come back to campus and discuss it with incoming students and the rest of the university community,” he told the ‘Prince.’ “I’ll also be engaging with readers all summer on social media, answering questions and sharing behind-the-scenes stories, so I want to encourage incoming first-years to follow me on Instagram (@jordansalama19) and to tag me in a picture of the book when it arrives!”

Aidan Iacobucci is a staff news writer for the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at iacobucci@princeton.edu or @aidaniaco on Instagram.

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