The Big Send Off of One Book, One Philadelphia

By Nell M. RSS Thu, June 15, 2023

Thursday, June 22 marks the finale of One Book, One Philadelphia and we over here in the One Book office are working up the nerve to say goodbye to this incredible season of events. After nine weeks of community workshops, neighborhood tours, a panel discussion, read-alouds, and instant ramen cooking classes, it seems only fair to finish this season with a big to-do: a karaoke party.

Following a conversation with author Charles Yu and Dr. Michelle Myers at the Community College of Philadelphia, we’ll move to the Asian Arts Initiative building 14 minutes away for the after party — a jubilee of food and music.

If you have read this year’s One Book selection, Interior Chinatown, then you already know the role karaoke plays in this book. If you have yet to read it, then all you need to know is this excerpt from the last page:

“...someone in the front of the house turns on the karaoke machine, testing testing.

‘Dad.’ Phoebe says. ‘Are you okay?’

‘Yes honey,’ you say. ‘Watch this. A-kong is up next.’

Ming-Chen Wu takes the stage and smiles. Testing, testing, he says, and he clears his throat, ready to sing about home.” (266)

As we near the final days of this program it is hard not to come back to this moment over and over again. A few days from now a lot of us will gather at Asian Arts Initiative, the venue for our finale karaoke party, and the bravest of us will line up for a chance at the mic, a chance to sing about home or otherwise.

But for me, any song I’ll choose to sing for home will also be for One Book. Because One Book is a type of home. It shines a light on this city, on the people and communities within it. 

In my years working for One Book, One Philadelphia it has become clear to me how perfectly this program encapsulates the city we live in. Each year, each title highlights another aspect of Philly: another neighborhood, another type of food, another history, another story entirely, yet still part of the larger whole.

We were incredibly lucky with this year’s title. Interior Chinatown had us diving into the neighborhood it’s named after. And in the past nine weeks, we’ve worked with so many people and organizations who know and care about their community deeply. We especially thank Selena Yip, who, in their capacity as then-director of the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, worked to curate films to go with our reading. Selena also arranged for us to read our children’s title, Drawn Together, to kids at Children’s Village and the Crane Community Center. Sarah Yeung and Harry Leong guided us through the streets of Chinatown so we could learn about its history. We spoke with Mary Yee, Debbie Wei, Kaia Chau, and Taryn Flaherty about their histories of activism in Chinatown, all dealing with their own struggles, to protect the community they love.

It would take this entire blog post to name and thank every organization and individual who made this program what it is. And this is what makes One Book so special: the sheer breadth of people who give their time and energy to share their stories and knowledge. What better way to celebrate it all than with a huge karaoke party? 

I cannot wait to kick off my shoes (metaphorically speaking) on June 22 at the finale, grab that mic, and sing loudly, and badly, about home.

The One Book, One Philadelphia Finale Author Conversation is Thursday, June 22 at Community College of Philadelphia’s Bonnell Building, in the large auditorium, at 6:00 P.M. Register online ahead of the event.

The One Book, One Philadelphia Finale After-Party is Thursday, June 22 at 7:30 P.M. at 1219 Vine Street in the Asian Arts Initiative building. Join us for free food, music, and of course, karaoke! Register online ahead of the event.

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