Scav Hunt is coming. Maybe you’re someone for whom Scav is always coming, who eagerly anticipates the annual four-day event featuring hundreds of competitors and even more quirky items on the legendary Scav list.
Since its humble beginnings in 1987, Scav Hunt has become a transformative, uniquely UChicago experience for students and alumni. One of those alums, competitor-turned-Scav judge Leila Sales, AB’06, explores that unique history in her new book, We Made Uranium!, recently published by the University of Chicago Press.
Sales worked with alumni to compile essays full of heart and hilarity that explore Scav lore, notably the story that inspired the title—about students who built a working breeder reactor in their dorm. With Scav set to begin at midnight on May 8, UChicago News talked to Sales about the book and her memories from Scav Hunts past:
What inspired you to start this project?
It’s been in the back of my mind since graduating college in 2006. I got a job working at Penguin, and I went on to publish six young adult novels. Then I went back to UChicago in 2015 for the Scav wedding. It was so amazing, and it reaffirmed for me that I really did want to do this book. By that point I had put so many books out there into the world, both as an editor and an author, that I felt way better equipped to begin this project than when I first started thinking about it.
Scav is very ephemeral, and a lot of stories rely on a collective memory. What did it mean to you to have stories from Scav recorded and shared?
I think that’s really valuable. There are some really legendary stories that aren’t in here, and every year there will be more. The thing about Scav is that it is a community, and everybody who has participated in it feels connected to this community in some way. I hope this book will bring that community together even more.
For people who love Scav, you miss it when it’s not that time of year. After you graduate, it’s not Scav ever again for you. You try to explain it to people, and they’re like, “Oh, sure, a scavenger hunt; I know those,” and you say “No, no, you don’t quite understand.” I think the book will allow people to explain it to others and also relive it.