'An opportunity for us to grow'

When selecting this summer's One Book, One Oak Park title, Assistant Manager of Materials Services Kathleen Spale said she and her team wanted to choose a book that's not only a great read—well-written, popular, and award-winning—but one that's also challenging and prompts conversations that can help us grow.

The goal of the community reading program for adults and teens, now in its third year, is to explore a theme that matters most to Oak Parkers and to this community’s future. This year, the library considered recommendations from staff and patron surveys asking for the best books of 2015. Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me stood out, Spale said, for the way it faces "head on, in a no-holds-barred, brutally honest, and provocative way, issues of race, class, and democracy that are affecting all of us not only as individuals, but also as communities like Oak Park and the country as a whole."

Written as an especially personal and compelling letter from Coates to his adolescent son, Between the World and Me tackles America’s racial past and present. A #1 New York Times best-seller and winner of the National Book Award, it is a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son regarding race. Both digital and print copies are available at the library (log in to request your copy now), and all three library buildings will host related events in June and July.

"Here is an opportunity for us to grow as individuals, an opportunity to grow as a community," Spale said. "The library is providing opportunities to open this dialogue and connect deeply with others over conversations that we might never bring up otherwise."

'A more connected community'

In addition to book discussions at the library, Oak Park Regional Housing Center Director Rob Breymaier will give a talk on the future of integration in Oak Park, award-winning director Steve James will screen and discuss No Crossover, and local authors, journalists, and professors will participate in a closing panel discussion

Outside the library, book discussions will be held at the Regional Housing Center and with the Village of Oak Park's Community Relations Commission. The library also has book discussion bags available for checkout to patrons who want to host their own discussions (while supplies last). Each bag contains 10 copies of Between the World and Me, discussion questions, and more. Find additional reader resources and all One Book, One Oak Park programs.

"Like Coates in Between the World and Me, we cannot be afraid to question what is going on around us," Spale said. "We cannot be afraid to challenge the realities we know. We have to challenge ourselves to be honest, to have conversations about race—the conversations that we are not having, but should be having."

"That is what the library is providing this summer," she continued. "By talking with each other, we can learn more about each other and strengthen the connections and bonds between us, making us a more engaged community, a more connected community."