Beyond the Book: a research study on “One Book” programs

Beyond the Book: a research study on “One Book” programs

Beyond the Book website lists information about the trans-national phenomenon of
“mass reading events,” our name for book events that are meant to bring
readers of one city, region or nation together by reading and sharing
the same book.

I was invited to meet with two of the researchers, North American director DeNel Rehberg Sedo (Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada), and Anouk Lang post-doctoral fellow.  I quickly contacted Larry Wong, as we were the community representatives/experts on the inaugural One_Book_One_Vancouver program in 2002 which featured The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy. We were great additions to the OBOV committee as Larry was a childhood friend of Wayson, and I was a vice-president of Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop, and also volunteering with Asian Heritage Month in Vancouver.

Here's a picture of (l-r): Larry Wong, Wayson Choy, Anouk Lang, Todd Wong (me) and DeNel Rehberg Sedo – photo courtesy of Larry Wong.

The Beyond the Book project seems to be a fascinating study of the mass book clubs for an entire city, such as One_Book_One_Vancouver, CBC Radio's Canada Reads, Seattle Reads, and One Book One Chicago.

It was a great privilege to be part of the inaugural One Book One Vancouver project.  I was invited by Community Programming Director Janice Douglas.  Also on the committee was Corrine Durston, then the Division Head Librarian for VPL Popular Reading, and Lisl Jauk, manager for The Word on the Street Book and Magazine Festival. It was an excellent exercise in community networking, as early meetings also included the VPL communications staff, as well as a representative from Douglas and McIntyre Pulishing, which published The Jade Peony.

Our discussions acknowledge the incredible creative energy of our inaugural commitee, which recognized that we were on an adventure and creating something brand new, never before done in Canada.  We created programming to help make The Jade Peony come alive. DeNel really liked my phrase “to turn the book inside out.”  Larry highlighted “The Jade Peony Walking Tour” that was created by Vancouver historia John Atkins, and was organized through the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens.

Wayson Choy spoke about the One Book program from an author's experience.  During the program, Wayson was simply amazed as The Jade Peony, was pushed back up on the BC Book Publishers'  “Best Seller” lists.  Wayson stated that OBOV (Jade Peony) committe was an important and unique program, devoid of egos, but especially strong because of the presence of community activists, and strong connections throughout the community.

I emphasized how incredible the event “Dim Sum with Ways Choy & Friends” was.  I had scouted the Floata Chinese restaurant as the best possible site.  Larry invited friends of Wayson's who had been the basis for some of the composite characters in the story.  As well, Larry showed a video greeting from author Carol Shields, who had been one of Wayson's teachers at the UBC School of Creative Writing.  I also recounted setting up reading events titled “Stories from Chinatown” featuring authors Paul Yee, SKY Lee, and Jim Wong-Chu, as well as “More Stories from Chinatown” featuring poet Sean Gunn, historian enthusiast Dr. Wallance Chung, and Roy Mah – founder of Chinatown News.

I also commented about the programming for the 2005 One Book One Vancouver selection, which was Joy Kogawa's novel, Obasan.  Early in January, 2005, I wrote a letter on the Kogawa Homestead website stating 20 reasons why Obasan should be the 2005 OBOV choice.  By September 2005, I was an active member and coordinator for the Save Kogawa House campaign to rescue Joy Kogawa's childhood home from demolition, and to turn it into a national historic landmark for all Canadians to share.

check out my articles on the OBOV program featuring Joy Kogawa's novel Obasan.

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