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ONE BOOK, ONE PHILADELPHIA WELCOMES FIRST VISIT WITH AUTHOR KEVIN POWERS
The Free Library of Philadelphia’s flagship literacy program continues its 2014 season with dramatic vignettes from Temple University and a debut musical performance by students from the Curtis Institute of Music.
PHILADELPHIA, February 5, 2014—While Philadelphia kicked off the 12th season of its annual One Book, One Philadelphia program on January 22, the Free Library welcomed special guest Kevin Powers, author of the 2014 featured reading selection, The Yellow Birds¸ for his first official author appearance on February 5 at the Parkway Central Library.
The evening began with opening remarks by Free Library of Philadelphia President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon, who recognized the lead sponsor of this year’s program, Walmart, in addition to primary sponsors the Field Foundation, the Lenfest Foundation, Ann and Tom Morris, and PECO. Reardon then invited Marie Field, Chair of One Book, One Philadelphia, to speak. Field emphasized how One Book connects the city and strengthens our communities through the shared act of reading.
“This year, One Book, One Philadelphia will examine the harsh reality of war and the struggles that so many of our young soldiers face upon their return home,” said Reardon. “These are powerful and important conversations that we all should be having. As such, I encourage everyone in Philadelphia to read The Yellow Birds, join in the conversation, and participate in as many of the thought-provoking One Book events as possible.”
“We are very appreciative of the longevity and strength of this great partnership between Walmart and The Free Library of Philadelphia,” said Rick Phillips, Human Resources Market Manager for Walmart. “Over the past four years, Walmart has hosted lively online discussions for the community, our associates have volunteered for the program, and our stores have featured the annual One Book selections for sale. We have also committed over $350,000 over this time period to ensure the program’s continued success.”
In addition to a special appearance by Powers, the event featured a screening of vignettes from In Conflict, a critically acclaimed drama drawn from interviews with Iraq War veterans and adapted by Temple University professor Douglas C. Wager from a book by award-winning journalist Yvonne Latty. The program concluded with a debut performance of an original musical composition inspired by The Yellow Birds, written by Alyssa Weinberg, a composition student of the Curtis Institute of Music, and performed on cello by Curtis student Tim Petrin.
Tonight’s event was just one of more than 100 engaging and educational One Book programs that will take place through March 19. Book discussions; mosaic workshops; political and historical presentations; and film screenings are just some of the wide variety of events offered in One Book, One Philadelphia’s 12th season.
Winner of the 2013 PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction and a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award, The Yellow Birds has been compared to Tim O’Brien’s classic war novel, The Things They Carried, for its powerful depiction of the truth and tragedy of war. Poet/novelist Powers vividly tells the story of a young soldier struggling to find meaning in his harrowing experiences in Iraq, while suffering profound guilt over his friend and fellow soldier’s death, as well as alienation from community and family upon his return home. According to The New York Times, “Kevin Powers has something to say, something deeply moving about the frailty of man and the brutality of war, and we should all lean closer and listen.”
Companion books for teens and children are also a part of the program. The middle-grade companion book, Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees by Deborah Ellis collects the stories of young Iraqi refugees, who describe how their lives have been forever reshaped by war in their homeland. Based on the true story of a remarkable woman, the children’s companion book is The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter. When war comes to Basra, Iraq, Alia Muhammad Baker is determined that the library’s treasure of 30,000 books will not be destroyed. With the help of her community, she ensures that this irreplaceable collection is not lost.
The One Book website at freelibrary.org/onebook is devoted to more resources, including downloadable discussion guides, recommended reading lists, event calendars, and more.
Additional One Book sponsors include Allied Barton, Stradley Ronon Stevens and Young, LLP, Dietz & Watson, and Pepper Hamilton, LLP. One Book media partners include WHYY, Philadelphia City Paper, Harmelin Media, and Keystone Outdoor.
About the Author
Kevin Powers was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, and in 2004 and 2005 he served with the U.S. Army in Mosul and Tal Afar, Iraq. After his honorable discharge, he studied English at Virginia Commonwealth University and received an M.F.A. in Poetry from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin in 2012, where he studied poetry and also completed The Yellow Birds, his first novel. In addition, his poems have appeared in The Sun, Poetry, New Orleans Review, and New York Quarterly. He is currently at work on a collection of poetry, as well as his second novel.
About One Book, One Philadelphia
Founded in 2003 by the Free Library and the Mayor’s Office, One Book motivates tens of thousands of people to read the featured selection and participate in discussions, events, workshops, classes, and more. All Free Library locations will have several hard copies of The Yellow Birds—as well as the middle-grade companion book, Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees, and children’s companion book, The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq—for customers to borrow with a Free Library card. In addition, the Free Library will have The Yellow Birds available as an ebook for download from its website. The book will also be available in audio format as a CD and as a downloadable audio file at freelibrary.org.
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The 54-location Free Library of Philadelphia system advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 25,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi; and rich special collections, including those at Parkway Central Library and at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation. The combined holdings of these renowned collections—which include hundreds of thousands of rare books, manuscripts, and ephemera—inspire unique exhibitions and programs throughout the year. With more than 6 million in-person and 9 million online visits annually, the Free Library and The Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.
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