Diversity is theme of this year's One City One Story

Diversity and immigration are the themes of this year’s community reading initiative called One City One Story. The One City One Story Committee chose “The Book of Unknown Americans” as this year’s adult title.

“The novel uses first person reminiscences from an array of characters from Latin American countries who speak about their reasons for coming to the United States,” according to the library’s website. “Focusing on a star-crossed love story between two teenagers, the novel showcases hopes, dreams, guilt and love – and offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American.”

For younger readers the committee chose titles to continue the theme of the immigrant experience: “Save Me a Seat” by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan for middle grade students, and “Mango, Abuela and Me” by Meg Medina for very young readers.

This is the third year for the One City One Story community reading initiative, which aims to get community members reading the same book. The first year the committee chose the book “Wonder,” by R.J. Palacio, which focused on a theme of kindness. Last year, the main title was “The Boys in the Boat,” by Daniel James Brown. The theme was overcoming obstacles.

The One City One Story Committee is made up of representatives from the Milford Public Library, the Milford School System, Barnes & Noble Bookstore and the Milford Arts Council. The committee gets together each year to select its adult book and theme, and then selects children’s books that mirror that theme.

“This year’s titles are about diversity and how we are all one community,” said Christine Angeli, Milford library director.

“It’s a nice story,” she said of the main title, which was written by Cristina Henriquez. “It gives you slices of what coming to America means to different people.”

Danielle Valenzano, children’s library assistant, said the two other titles do a good job complementing the adult selection.

According to the author’s website, “Save Me a Seat” tells of Joe and Ravi, who might be from very different places, but they’re both in the same school.

“Joe’s lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi’s family just moved to America from India, and he’s finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in.”

Joe and Ravi don’t think they have anything in common, but soon they have a common enemy — the biggest bully in their class — and a common mission: To take control of their lives over the course of a week.

In  the children’s picture book “Mango, Abuela and Me,” Mia’s abuela (grandmother) has left her sunny house with parrots and palm trees to live with Mia and her parents in the city, according to Amazon.com.

“The night she arrives, Mia tries to share her favorite book with Abuela before they go to sleep and discovers that Abuela can’t read the words inside. So while they cook, Mia helps Abuela learn English, and Mia learns some Spanish too, but it’s still hard for Abuela to learn the words she needs to tell Mia all her stories.

“Then Mia sees a parrot in the pet-shop window and has the perfecto idea for how to help them all communicate a little better.”

Official kickoff
There are plenty of copies of the books available at the library for people to start reading. Milford’s One City One Story will officially kick off on Sunday, April 2, with a cultural fair at the Milford Public Library from 1 to 3 p.m.

Angeli said there will be representatives of different cultures set up and sharing aspects of their native countries.

There also will be a 15-minute Skype session with the author of “The Book of Unknown Americans.”

And keeping with the theme, the library is creating stories of regular Milford people and putting them to paper, along with a picture of the person. “This is so you learn more about the people around town, not just the movers and shakers but the people who built the community,” Angeli said.

There will be a host of programs and events in April to recognize the One City One Story books. An event schedule will be created and posted on the library’s website and the library’s Facebook page.