July 8, 2010
TONI MORRISON’S A MERCY CHOSEN AS
THE FALL 2010 ONE BOOK, ONE CHICAGO SELECTION
Chicago Public Library is proud to announce that Toni Morrison’s most recent novel, A Mercy, will be the 19th selection for Chicago’s city-wide book club One Book, One Chicago.
“We are honored to present Toni Morrison’s novel A Mercy as our fall selection. Professor Morrison is an American icon, and one of our most important writers and intellectuals,” said Commissioner Mary Dempsey. “The beautifully written A Mercy, just as the award-winning Beloved did before, provides an important exploration into American slavery and its effect on lives in the earliest days of our nation.”
A Mercy is set in the late 17th century, and tells the story of a young girl, Florens, as well as others on the Northeast American farm where she is a slave—Lina, a Native American woman who nurtures the orphaned Florens, the Anglo Dutch landowner Jacob Vaark, his English wife Rebekka, an unstable and elusive slave named Sorrow, two white European indentured servants named Willard and Scully, and more. Morrison’s story provides an insightful look into a time when the burgeoning American economy was being built on the institution of slavery, but slavery was not yet defined by race. A Mercy is a rich and accurate portrait of this early American society, and the people who struggled to survive within it.
Throughout its 137 year history, the Chicago Public Library has always encouraged Chicagoans of all ages to make reading a priority. One Book, One Chicago began in the fall of 2001, to encourage all Chicagoans to read the same book at the same time, and discuss a great piece of literature with friends and neighbors.
This fall’s One Book, One Chicago program will kick off with an event on September 7th at the Harold Washington Library Center. Dwight McBride, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Professor of African American Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies, will speak about Morrison’s importance as a leading American intellectual. There will also be a brief performance from the opera Margaret Garner, for which Morrison wrote the libretto, presented with the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera; and a give away of free copies of A Mercy to the first 400 attendees!
Professor Morrison will appear in a reading and talk on October 19th at the Symphony Center, in a free, ticketed event presented by the Chicago Public Library and the McCormick Foundation. Tickets will be available after August 11th through the Symphony Center Box Office.
Further events include a history panel with local scholars on the intersection between creativity and research at the Newberry Library on October 7th; a staged reading with Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble members on October 12th at the Harold Washington Library; genealogy workshops at various Library locations; and a film screening and discussion of Beloved, starring Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey, on October 16th at the Woodson Regional Library.
DePaul University is offering a variety of One Book, One Chicago related events, including a screening of the film The Black List, Vol. 1, which includes an interview with Toni Morrison as well as other prominent African Americans. The film will be followed by a panel discussion with Francesca Royster of DePaul, David Stovall of UIC, and others. Other events at DePaul include panel discussions titled “Toni Morrison as Storyteller: Poetry and Performance” and “Dangerous Crossroads: Cross Racial Alliance and the Turning Point of Slavery in A Mercy.”
As they do each year, DePaul University’s English Department is offering a ten-week course which explores literary components of the city’s One Book, One Chicago selections. The title of this particular course is “Imperfect Community: Toni Morrison’s Vision of Social Engagement.”
In addition, Chicago Public Library librarians have created a resource guide—available in mid-August—to accompany the book and will conduct book discussions across the city at neighborhood libraries. Discussions outside of the library will occur at a variety of Chicago cultural institutions as well. Book Club in a Bag, which provides eight copies of the book, resource guides and book discussion tips, will be available at seven Library locations, or can be placed on hold online and picked up at any location of a patron’s choosing.
In the spirit of the book and the African American tradition of oral histories, the Library’s YOUmedia space will be offering open studio hours this summer and into fall to create your own oral history. The studio space will be open on Saturdays through August, and on Fridays in September.
YOUmedia will also offer a series of interactive workshops inspired by A Mercy. Projects include oral histories, genealogy projects, digital media, art work, visual mapping and chronology, photographs, film, and more, all detailing their experience reading the book. There will be a showcase of this teen-generated work and a performance of scenes from the book by the Teen Volume Reader’s Theatre Troupe on October 21 at the Harold Washington Library Center
The 2010 Fall One Book, One Chicago is presented by the Chicago Public Library, the Chicago Public Library Foundation, the Motorola Foundation and Allstate. Partners include DePaul University, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Public Radio, the McCormick Foundation, Newberry Library, Steppenwolf Theatre and the Park Hyatt Chicago.
Past One Book, One Chicago selections have been To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Night by Elie Wiesel, My Ántonia by Willa Cather, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek, In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City by Carl Smith and Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín.
The Harold Washington Library Center, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library and Conrad Sulzer Regional Library are open 7 days a week, the branch libraries are open 6 days a week and patrons can access all of the Library’s collections online 24 hours a day. For more information about One Book, One Chicago, please visit www.chipublib.org/eventsprog/programs/onebook_onechgo.php or call the Chicago Public Library Press Office at (312) 747-4050.