PHILADELPHIA, October 17, 2007 - This morning Mayor John F. Street officially kicked off the 2008 One Book, One Philadelphia reading period with the announcement of this year’s One Book featured reading selection.
“The One Book, One Philadelphia Selection Committee has chosen Dave Eggers’ powerful novel What Is the What as the 2008 featured reading selection,” said Mayor Street. “This novel is a timely choice given the current situation in the Darfur region of Sudan, and we are confident that the themes addressed will lend themselves to discussions about issues of violence in the world, as well as in our own city.”
Based closely on actual experiences, What Is the What tells the fictionalized story of Valentino Achak Deng, who as a child witnessed atrocities of civil warfare in Sudan and became one of the so-called Lost Boys. His journey through Sudan and Ethiopia, and his eventual settlement in the United States, is a moving, inspirational tale. Told by Heinz Award-winning and bestselling author Dave Eggers, What Is the What was released in paperback this month.
Following the announcement by Mayor Street, a special video message from Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng, filmed specially for the occasion, was screened publicly for the first time. “We are so thrilled that you have chosen What Is the What,” said Eggers. “We couldn’t be happier or more proud to be part of the [One Book] program.... This is really why we undertook the project in the first place, so that [Valentino’s story] could reach a wide audience, [especially] those who might not know much about the civil war in Sudan.”
Noting the success of last year’s addition of two companion books to engage a wider audience and to encourage multi-generational reading, the One Book Selection Committee has again endorsed two thematically related books for children, teens, and family reading: Mary Williams’Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan and Mawi Asgedom’s Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy’s Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard.
One Book, One Philadelphiachair Marie Field shared remarks emphasizing the importance of the selection of a book as timely and thought-provoking as What Is the What. “Every year One Book transforms our diverse city and region into one cohesive community,” she said. “This program brings together thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds to compare views and interpretations; share feelings and personal stories; view exhibitions, movies, musical and theatrical performances; attend classes and panel discussions, as well as writing, craft, and cooking workshops--all inspired by a common reading experience. It is nothing short of inspiring to know that Philadelphians from every area of the city will be reading and discussing this phenomenal book.”
A joint project of the Office of the Mayor and the Free Library of Philadelphia--with support from lead sponsor Independence Blue Cross--One Book’s mission is to promote reading, literacy, library usage, and community building throughout the Philadelphia region. As of today all Free Library locations will circulate copies of the 2008 One Book featured reading selection, as well as the two companion books. Last year, more than 400 community partners throughout the region sponsored and promoted One Book events. This year’s program will again feature a variety of author lectures, panel discussions, exhibits, performances, and other activities that will take place between January 8 and March 20, 2008.
Additional One Book, One Philadelphia 2008 sponsors include the City of Philadelphia Commerce Department; PECO; WHYY; Harmelin Media; Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP; Sovereign Bank; Macy’s; and Paul and Kathy Addis.
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The Free Library of Philadelphia system consists of 49 branches, three regional libraries, the Central Library, and the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. With more than six million visits annually, the Free Library is one of the most widely-used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia.