The Free Library of Philadelphia’s flagship literacy program begins with a celebration of the 2011 featured selections, Sherman Alexie’s War Dances and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
PHILADELPHIA, January 19, 2011—The Free Library of Philadelphia kicked off the ninth annual One Book, One Philadelphia program on January 19 at the Parkway Central Library with a special event celebrating the 2011 featured reading selections, War Dances and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
War Dances is a bittersweet collection of short stories and poems that examines the intricate facets of human relationships, taking readers on a grand tour of life in all its complexity. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a humorous and heartrending autobiographical novel based on Alexie’s experiences growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation. Read together, these two books paint a complex and compelling portrait of modern life, as seen through the eyes of an acclaimed Native American writer and filmmaker.
The evening began with opening remarks by Free Library of Philadelphia President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon, who invited Bill Sasso, Chair of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation Board of Directors, to speak. Sasso recognized the sponsors of this year’s program, including lead sponsor Walmart, and primary sponsors Peco, the Lenfest Foundation, the Field Foundation, and Patricia and John Imbesi of the North American Beverage Company. One Book, One Philadelphia Chair Marie Field also spoke on the importance of this year’s program for the Philadelphia community.
“As in previous years, in fulfillment of One Book’s mission to promote reading, literacy, library usage, and community throughout Greater Philadelphia, One Book, One Philadelphia will provide a rich, stimulating, interactive variety of programming designed to add to our knowledge of Native American culture, our understanding of Native American history and politics, and our appreciation of the struggles and many contributions of the United States’ first peoples,” said Reardon. “We encourage everyone in Philadelphia to read the featured selections, join in the conversation, and participate in as many of the events as possible.”
Speaking from his home in Seattle, Washington, author Sherman Alexie greeted the crowd at Parkway Central and discussed his excitement about War Dances and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian being chosen as the 2011 One Book featured reading selections.
Following Alexie’s welcome message, the Red Blanket Singers and Dancers of the local Nanticoke Lenni Lenape Nation enlivened Montgomery Auditorium with a spirited dance performance. Audience members were also treated to a moving musical presentation by multi-Grammy Award nominee and the world's premeir performer of the Native American flute R. Carlos Nakai, alongside Udi Bar-David, cellist with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Artistic Director of Intercultural Journeys.
Tonight’s event was one of more than 100 engaging, entertaining, and educational programs that will take place through March 17. Book and film discussions; Native American craft workshops; political, religious, and historical presentations; and film screenings are just some of the wide variety of events offered this year.
A companion picture book for young readers and families is also a part of the program: The Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo. Illustrated with images that subtly weave in details about the narrator’s Native American heritage, The Good Luck Cat invites readers to follow a spirited pet cat on his many misadventures.
The One Book website at freelibrary.org/onebook is devoted to more resources, including downloadable discussion guides, recommended reading lists, event calendars, and more.
Additional One Book sponsors include: Beneficial Savings Bank; Stradley Ronon Stevens and Young LLP; Pepper Hamilton LLP; The Hassel Foundation; McCarter and English LLP; Kathy and Paul Addis, Sondra Bergey, and Mary Ellen Byrne. One Book media partners include WHYY, Philadelphia City Paper, Philebrity, Harmelin Media, and Keystone Outdoor.
About the Author
A critically acclaimed, award-winning writer and filmmaker, Sherman Alexie is known for his realistic portrayal of contemporary Native American life. Raised on the Spokane Indian reservation in Welpinnit, Washington, Alexie is the author of the short story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and the screenplay adaption of one of its stories, Smoke Signals, as well as One Stick Song and Flight, among many works of fiction and poetry. He also wrote and directed the film The Business of Fancydancing, which is based on his first collection of poems. Alexie received the prestigious National Book Award for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and the PEN/Faulkner Award for War Dances. He lives in Seattle with his wife and two sons.
About One Book, One Philadelphia
Founded in 2003 by the Free Library and the Mayor’s Office, One Book motivates tens of thousands of people to read the featured selection and participate in discussions, events, workshops, classes, and more. All Free Library locations have copies of War Dances and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, as well as the companion book, The Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo, free to be borrowed with a Library card. One Book, One Philadelphia runs from January 19 through March 17, 2011. For more information, visit freelibrary.org/onebook.
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The Free Library of Philadelphia system consists of 49 branches, three regional libraries, the Parkway Central Library, and the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. With more than 6 million visits annually, the Free Library is one of the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia.