Free Library of Philadelphia Kicks-Off "One Book One Philadelphia 2013"


Kathleen Quigley, for GPA -- Now in its 11th year, One Book One Philadelphia has brought stories form across the globe and the United States to Philadelphia via the selections in this annual program. A staple of the Parkway icon, the Free Library of Philadelphia, One Book One Philadelphia delivers the splendor of literacy year after year. Engaging readers of all ages and all levels through a two month showcase inspired by the subject matter of the year’s selection, One Book One Philadelphia is true a cultural institution of its own.

The year 2013 belongs to author Julie Otsuka’s novel The Buddha in the Attic. Set in the first decades of the 20th century, the narrative begins with young women emigrating from Japan to America as “picture brides”- a kind of mail-order wife for men they have never met. Otsuka’s fictional book traverses chapters of US history, including the often forgotten internment of Japanese Americans during World War II in remote corners of America. Julie Otsuka chose to focus parts of her book based on actual experiences of her own family members.

One Book One Philadelphia’s 2013 kickoff took place in the Free Library’s packed auditorium on January 17. Hosted by One Book One Philadelphia's Project Coordinator, Kalela Williams, the event made for a marvelously curated and inspiring program. Julia Otsuka read The Buddha in the Attic’s opening chapter and enthralled the audience with her live recitation. Members of Distant Voices Touring Theatre presented a dramatic reading based on the experiences of Japanese immigrant Hirokai Nishimura during his internment in the American camps of WWII. Following Distant Voices, students from the Curtis Institute of Music performed an original piece by composer Riho Maimets. Maimet’s piece contained three movements, all inspired by Julie Otsuka’s novel. The evening was not only a tribute to The Buddha in the Attic, but also to the beauty of art inspiration.

Through March 13, activities of many types aimed toward different ages have been crafted around this year’s One Book One Philadelphia selection. Book discussions will be coordinated around the city for the public to take part in exploring The Buddha in the Attic, in addition to many other events happening at various venues highlighting different themes of the book.

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