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Author Steve Lopez Joined Free Library for 2009 One Book, One Philadelphia Season Kick-Off
With 150 events planned and more than 500 community partners, the Library’s signature literacy program will engage more than 10,000 readers in the next three months.
PHILADELPHIA, January 14, 2009—The Free Library of Philadelphia, along with author Steve Lopez, kicked off the seventh season of One Book, One Philadelphia this evening at the Parkway Central Library, celebrating the choice of Lopez’s book The Soloist as the 2009 reading selection.
The powerful memoir The Soloist follows the true story of columnist Steve Lopez as he meets and befriends Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless man living on Los Angeles’ Skid Row. After spotting Ayers playing a violin with just two strings, Lopez uncovers an extraordinary story about a Julliard-trained musician who dropped out of the famed performing arts school after suffering a breakdown caused by schizophrenia. Lopez works tirelessly to encourage Ayers’ talent and bring him in off the street, but his efforts are met with a series of setbacks. While Lopez initially attempts to improve Ayers’ circumstances, he soon finds that it is his own life that has been profoundly changed. The book highlights complex issues such as mental illness and homelessness, as well as the redemptive power of music.
Members of the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra performed for the audience, then Library President and Director Siobhan Reardon recognized the 11 sponsors of the program, inviting Chris Cashman, Senior VP of Corporate Affairs at Independence Blue Cross, to speak about their commitment to the Philadelphia community and Independence Blue Cross’s seven-year commitment as lead sponsor to the program.
One Book, One Philadelphia Chair Marie Field introduced Lopez, commenting on the selection of The Soloist as the book everyone in Philadelphia should read. “The Soloist is a powerfully moving book. It transports you into another life, makes you feel as though you are walking in someone else's shoes, in this case the untied sneakers of Nathanial Ayers as he pushes his cart through Skid Row, Los Angeles. This is a book that can change Philadelphia's vision, cause us to look at a homeless person and wonder what his story is, what potential lies beneath the disarray, what tragic circumstances have brought him to his condition.”
Mr. Lopez, a former columnist with The Philadelphia Inquirer and now a columnist with the Los Angeles Times, captivated the audience with the story of how what started out as one newspaper article turned into an unexpected friendship with Nathaniel Ayers. Lopez stated, “Meeting Nathaniel was a gift, and having our story selected by One Book, One Philadelphia is an honor. Nathaniel has taught me about the power of human connections, about the healing forces of art, and about the great surprise and wonder that dwell beyond stereotypes. Sharing this story with Philadelphians is especially sweet for me, having spent so many rich years in the City, having been inspired by heroes like Sister Mary Scullion of Project H.O.M.E., and having gotten married, where else, but in the Parkway Central Library.”
Tonight’s appearance was just one of several planned by Lopez throughout Philadelphia. On Thursday, January 15, he will visit the Lillian Marrero Branch in Kensington for a teen event and book signing. Seventy of the 150 One Book programs will take place in branch libraries across the city. A wide variety of events—from book discussions to musical performances to film screenings—offer something of interest for every age group. Two companion books for children and teens, The Double Life of Zoe Flynn and A Chance to Shine, are also part of the program. A Calendar of Events and a Resource Guide for book discussions are available at freelibrary.org
About One Book, One Philadelphia
With more than 6 million visits annually, the Free Library is one of the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia.