Hamilton’s month-long community reading program One City One Book is set to return this fall after a successful inaugural year.
One City One Book Hamilton is the brainchild of Niki Motley and Honi Cohen, two heavily involved community members who wanted to share their love of reading with the city.
“Niki was looking to try and make a difference in the community, and literature is critical and education is critical,” Cohen said.
Motley first read about community reading programs in 1997, and kept the idea in the back of her mind to introduce someday.
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“I just loved the idea of seeing someone here in a coffee shop and seeing them reading the book,” Motley said. “It’s someone you didn’t know, but may be able to have a shared connection with.”
Last year, Hamilton residents read the New York Times Bestseller “Hidden Figures,” the true story of African-American female mathematicians of NASA who operated as “human computers” and contributed to some of the United States’ greatest achievements in space.
Five hundred copies of “Hidden Figures” were distributed to the local shops and restaurants of Hamilton’s 17 neighborhoods, Cohen said.
In October, the committee of One City One Book is introducing “Station Eleven,” a post-apocalyptic novel that explores humanity’s capacity to survive through hope and art after a devastating pandemic wipes out 99 percent of the world’s population.
“This book puts a focus on our community and what happens when you’ve lost everything in the world and how you deal with survival,” Motley said.
Written by Canadian author Emily St. John Mandel, the story follows the Traveling Symphony, a small troupe of Shakespearean actors and musicians who dedicate themselves to keeping remnants of art and humanity alive.
When the world ends, what is is that keeps people alive? The book explores this question by showing art, poetry and music capture culture and humanity and lead to a sufficient existence. The book even goes so far as to transcend dividing issues of race and religion to show that when it comes to survival, differences are irrelevant.
Anne Adams, a Hamilton resident, participated in One City One Book last year and is excited to share her experience with people she has never met.
“Discussions on any book always bring out so much, not only about the book and the subject, but about the individual members. I think it is a great way to bring people together and for people to share different ideas,” Adams said.
The entire month of October will be filled with events related to the novel, including a visit by the author to Hamilton.
St. John Mandel will be in Hamilton on Oct. 22 to discuss her inspirations behind the book.
Other events include:
- Opening discussion of “Station Eleven” at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Hamilton Lane Library
- REI Outdoor School: Emergency Preparedness Workshop: The Oct. 9 event will teach attendees what to do in the event of an accident or disaster
- Plagues: Then and Now: The Oct. 24 event at Fort Hamilton Hospital is the one resident Cammie Mignery said she is most excited for. the As former health commissioner of Springdale, Mignery is familiar with the preparations hospitals take in the event of a pandemic. “That would be one of the best takeaways, how to rely on yourself … during one of these kind of pandemic events and not rely immediately on the emergency systems that are in place,” she said.
Motley and Cohen hope that “Station Eleven” is a novel that can bring the residents of Hamilton together through community reading in book clubs, discussions, and read-in events for the second year in a row.
“If I can bring five people to a book club discussion that have never met … and they might join together and talk about a book, I’ve accomplished my goal,” Motley said. “They’re no longer strangers. They’re neighbors.”