‘Everyone’s Reading’ in metro Detroit

By: Kayla Dimick, Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | C&G Newspapers | Published February 20, 2016

 Lisa See will hold discussions on her book in April at the Smith Theatre in Farmington Hills, at the Detroit Institute of Arts and at the West Bloomfield Township Public Library.

Lisa See will hold discussions on her book in April at the Smith Theatre in Farmington Hills, at the Detroit Institute of Arts and at the West Bloomfield Township Public Library.

Photo provided by the West Bloomfield Township Public Library

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METRO DETROIT — Book lovers across metro Detroit are invited to experience a communitywide reading program sponsored by public libraries in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties.

Now in its 15th year, Everyone’s Reading promotes community dialogue through reading and discussing the same book. This year’s book selection is “Shanghai Girls,” by Lisa See.

Mary Killian, West Bloomfield Township Public Library main branch manager, said the program was initiated by the Metro Net Library Consortium, which is made up of seven metro Detroit public libraries. The West Bloomfield Township Public Library is a sponsoring library of Everyone’s Reading. Libraries across the three counties will host book discussions throughout March and April, leading up to three appearances by See.

Each year, the libraries choose a unique title. Upon choosing a book, said Kelly Rembert, outreach librarian at the Southfield Public Library, the librarians make sure the author is willing to participate in discussions about their work.

“She’ll talk about ‘Shanghai Girls’ and how it came to be and her writing process,” Rembert said. “The fun of it is it’s open to anybody to ask a question. You never know which direction it will take.”

Rembert said the themes in “Shanghai Girls” — set in 1937 — still ring true today.

“The story is set almost a century ago, but the topics it brings up about immigration, discrimination and harassment are still relevant today,” Rembert said. “You see politicians calling for certain ethnic groups to not be allowed in the country. It’s different ethnic groups now, but back then there was great animosity toward anybody Asian coming into the country.”

Killian said that based on appearance, readers wouldn’t know that See is of Chinese descent. See was born in Paris and grew up in Los Angeles. A lot of her time was spent with her father’s Chinese relatives in Chinatown.

“Lisa See is not a one-hit wonder. All of her books are unique in that they all have a somewhat similar theme in the Chinese-American experience,” Killian said. “All of her books that come out are really looked forward to.”

Because the story incorporates the art of the Chinese-American experience, Killian said that for the first time, the libraries partnered with the Detroit Institute of Arts and its Art + Authors program. The DIA will host an appearance by See at 11 a.m. April 12, and book discussions led by librarians, followed by a museum tour with the theme of “Art as Propaganda” April 15 and 16. 

Rebekka Parker, education program coordinator for the DIA, said both the appearance by See and the book discussions are free to those in the tri-county area. Those who live outside the tri-county area have to pay general admission. Early registration is required, as the DIA will only permit 80 people for See’s presentation and 45 people for each book discussion.

Parker said she is excited about the program because it provides an opportunity for the community to discuss relevant social issues and how they relate to the book, and the museum is a safe space to share a conversation.

Residents of participating libraries — Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham, Bloomfield Township Public Library, Farmington Community Library, Rochester Hills Public Library, Southfield Public Library, West Bloomfield Township Public Library, Berkeley Public Library, Franklin Public Library, Royal Oak Public Library and Troy Public Library —  are welcome to check out the book at their local library before the discussion. At the Southfield Public Library, Rembert said, print copies of the book are currently on a waiting list, but they also carry audio versions and downloadable audio versions of the book.

Killian said it’s common for the participating libraries to carry multiple copies of the book in various formats. West Bloomfield has hard copies, e-books and audiobooks available.

See will hold discussions on her book throughout April at several local libraries. At 7 p.m. April 11, See will speak in Farmington Hills at the Smith Theatre, on Oakland Community College’s Orchard Ridge Campus, 27055 Orchard Lake Road. At 11 a.m. April 12, See will speak in Detroit at the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave. At 7 p.m. April 12, See will speak in Bloomfield Township at Temple Beth El, 7400 Telegraph Road.

Tickets to the DIA event are free to residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Tickets can be reserved at tickets.dia.org or by calling (313) 833-4005.

Due to popular demand, a ticket will be required for See’s appearances in Farmington Hills and Bloomfield Township. Tickets are free, but they are limited and can be obtained by contacting a participating library.

A list of where book discussions are being held can be found at www.everyonesreading.org or by contacting a participating library.

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