Editor’s note: As the clock struck midnight last night, the voting ceased, and the victor emerged … by just one vote. Did your choice for “Wheeling Reads: One Book, One Community” win?
Do you want to have fun? Do you enjoy meeting new people? Do you like learning? Are you excited about community? Do you often find your nose in a book?
If you answered a resounding YES to even SOME of those questions, then “Wheeling Reads: One Book, One Community” is for you.
Sean Duffy, chair of the History and Literature Committee of Wheeling’s Arts and Cultural Commission, and program coordinator at the Ohio County Public Library, explained that “Wheeling Reads” is a “city-wide book discussion club,” a collaboration of the library and the History and Literature Committee.
“But it’s so much more,” than a discussion club, he added. “It will feature programs at local restaurants, coffee shops and other venues, programs featuring discussions of parts of the book and many more surprises over the next year.”
Ten books were nominated by the History and Literature Committee and a few other volunteers; that group whittled the list to five. Those five books were placed on a ballot and voted upon by the public.
“The five books that made the ballot are all contemporary reads. We chose these titles generally because we are hoping to have the author of the book come to town. Some of the titles were selected because of their focus on Appalachia,” said Sarah Clark, a member of the Arts and Culture Commission.
Voting ended at midnight yesterday, Oct. 31. And one vote separated the top two.
AND NOW … DRUMROLL, please. … The winning book is … “Educated” by Tara Westover. In her memoir, Westover writes about going beyond the limitations of birth and environment into a better life. “Educated” went neck-and-neck down to the wire with “The Clarinet Polka” by Keith Maillard.
Now that the winning book has been revealed, all you have to do to participate is get a copy of the book and finish it before Nov. 7, 2020. You have over a year to read it!
The benefits of participating, Duffy explained, include “increased reading, learning, social interaction, community networking, communication and just plain fun.”
“’Wheeling Reads: One Book, One Community’ is designed to bring our city closer together through the shared experience of reading and discussing the same book,” he said.
Wheeling is not inventing this wheel. Plenty of cities across America has been doing similar projects for years. Austin, Texas, is reading “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is reading “There, There” by Tommy Orange. York County, Pennsylvania, just announced “Heartland” by Sarah Smarsh as its selection. And Washington, D.C.; Santa Monica, California; Chicago, Illinois; and Yuma, Arizona; are just a handful of a myriad of cities with community reads.
In Wheeling, the program is geared toward adults and young adults with an interest in reading and discussing the selected book, Duffy said.
“The library will make available as many copies of the book, whether printed, recorded or digital, as possible,” he added.
On Nov. 7, 2020, during the Upper Ohio Valley Festival of Books, a final discussion of the book will occur as a town hall type of event, Duffy said.
The Upper Ohio Valley Festival of Books is an annual celebration of the literary arts held at the Ohio County Public Library, Duffy noted. This year, the festival returns in partnership with the library’s People’s University. Programs will focus on the rich tradition of literature in the friendly city, and will be held at 7 p.m. on five Tuesdays beginning Nov. 5.
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Throughout the year, there will be many opportunities to participate in programs related to “Wheeling Reads” at different venues throughout the city. Some of the activities will include “Brews and Books,” “Latte and Literature,” speaker events, outdoor reading events, book-related films and more.
“The [final] community discussion will feature a facilitator or discussion leader or leaders,” Duffy said. “Audience members will have the opportunity to share thoughts about the book or answer questions. The plan is also to have the author of the book present, if that is possible.”
“Appalachia North” (Matthew Ferrence, 2019): Author Matthew Ferrence’s sense of geographic ambiguity is compounded when he learns that his birthplace in western Pennsylvania is technically not a mountain but, instead, a dissected plateau shaped by the slow, deep cuts of erosion. That discovery is followed by the diagnosis of a brain tumor, setting Ferrence on a journey that is part memoir, part exploration of geology and place.
“Clarinet Polka” (Keith Maillard, 2002): Set in the Wheeling-based fictional town of Raysburg, West Virginia, Maillard’s rich narrative is about the psychological and physical ravages of war that are passed on through the generations and about the healing powers of language, music and tradition. This pitch-perfect portrait of working-class Polish America is a funny yet serious tale of lust and love, despair and redemption.
“Crapalachia: A Biography of Place” (Scott McClanahan, 2013): Peopled by colorful characters and their quirky stories, “Crapalachia” interweaves oral folklore and area history, providing an ambitious and powerful portrait of the author’s formative years, coming-of-age in rural West Virginia.
“Educated” (Tara Westover, 2018): An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a doctorate from Cambridge University. Tara Westover is living proof that some people are flat-out, boots-always-laced-up indomitable. “Educated” is a heartbreaking, heartwarming, best-in-years memoir about striding beyond the limitations of birth and environment into a better life.
“A Pure Heart” (Rajia Hassib, 2019): Written by an Egyptian immigrant living in West Virginia, “A Pure Heart” is a brilliant portrait of two Muslim women in the 21st century, and the decisions they make in work and love that determine their destinies. A stirring and deeply textured novel, “A Pure Heart” asks what it means to forgive, and considers how faith, family, and love can unite and divide us.
• Having spent nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Phyllis Sigalnowserves as Weelunk’s managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.