‘One Book, Many Communities’: Reading As a Form of Protest

This winter, Librarians and Archivists with Palestine (LAP) is coordinating a new international reading campaign called “One Book, Many Communities.” It’s a shared book club across boundaries and borders, and will launch in January 2015 with Susan Abulhawa’Mornings in Jenin:

LAP1Web_White_600SquareAccording to LAP’s Melissa Morrone, the project draws inspiration from “One Book, One Town” initiatives, where people in local communities come together to read and discuss a common  book. But “One Book, Many Communities” isn’t limited to a single town. LAP already has several events scheduled in the US and Sweden, and invites readers, librarians, and others to organize more gatherings in January 2015 to discuss Mornings in Jenin.

These book-group meetings can be held at a library, university or school, at a local non-profit organization or community center, in a living room, or at a bookstore. Event organizers can get in touch with LAP at librarians2palestine – at – gmail.com. The launch of the new series will feature the author, Susan Abulhawa, at Bluestockings bookstore in New York City on Saturday, Nov. 8.

LAP’s Morrone answered a few more questions about the project:

ArabLit: How did you guys decide on this project?

Melissa Morrone: We had a meeting in New York City (where many of us live) in August, during the most recent intensive attacks on Gaza, and we talked about how we wanted to do something that expressed our horror and outrage while deploying our solidarity group’s unique skills and experience. Out of this meeting came the idea for public readings of Palestinian literature as a form of protest (we did it on the NYC subways), as well as the idea for “One Book, Many Communities.”

AL: Why Mornings in Jenin?

MM: We tossed around different ideas for works of Palestinian literature and ultimately decided on Mornings in Jenin, by the Palestinian-American author and activist Susan Abulhawa, for a few reasons. It’s an accessible and moving novel, with a compelling protagonist, that goes chronologically through Palestinian history from pre-1948 to the early 2000s. It was written in English but is available in several translations. Although it came out a few years ago, people are still reading it — for example, when I checked my own library’s catalog while we were making the final decision about which book, around half of our copies were checked out. Finally, some of us already had a connection with Susan, who is actually making a special trip to NYC to be part of a launch event for the “One Book” campaign on November 8.

AL: Is there some way readers in different groups are going to be able to connect? Via #lap1book?

MM: We’re encouraging all participants in the January discussions to document their events, with photos, maybe video, and live tweets using that #lap1book hashtag. We’re open to proposals for virtual discussions, for example via Google Hangouts, and we also want to hold at least one as a Twitter chat. And we want this initiative to truly be global, so we’ll be providing flyers and bookmarks in multiple languages so that people in non-English-speaking locations (we’ve already got Sweden covered!) can plan and promote book discussions in January.

AL: Is this going to be the first in a series? Do you know what future books will be?

MM: Yes, that’s definitely our intent. And no, not yet. Suggestions are welcome!