Chicago Public Library Announces “Bedrock Faith” as One Book, One Chicago’s 2021 20th Anniversary Selection

Annual citywide reading program celebrates diversity and strengths of Chicago’s neighborhoods and communities through literature and thematic programming

Chicago Public Library (CPL) announced today that Bedrock Faith by Chicago author Eric Charles May is the 2021 One Book, One Chicago selection. One Book, One Chicago is a free citywide literary program that connects Chicagoans and their communities around a singular chosen text. From September through December 2021, CPL will explore the book and many programs through this season’s central theme “Neighborhoods: Our City’s Bedrock.” Initiated in 2001, One Book, One Chicago celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with this Chicago neighborhood story. 

“This year’s One Book, One Chicago selection, Bedrock Faith by Eric Charles May, presents an opportunity to celebrate what makes our residents individually and collectively strong, as well as the connections we have to one another,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “The theme, chosen in honor of the program's 20th anniversary, also encourages readers to reconnect with others through the power of a deeply emotional and insightful story crafted by a brilliant Chicagoan, who masterfully portrays our city’s spirit and vibrant communities. Stories like these showcase the unique kind of camaraderie we have for our neighbors and they will continue to play an integral role in our ongoing journey of healing from the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Bedrock Faith—May’s 2014 debut novelstarts with Gerald “Stew Pot” Reeves’s return to his close-knit, Black, and middle-class community on Chicago’s South Side after fourteen years in prison. The Parkland community is hesitant to accept him apart from his widowed and retired next-door neighbor, Mrs. Motley, who lends him a Bible as a welcoming gesture. Beneath escalating conflicts between community members lies the heart of the story: how people come together to create a community, develop deep connections, and provide a communal system of support, forgiveness, and understanding. 

“Chicago Public Library is so excited to celebrate 20 years of One Book, One Chicago with this city’s very own author Eric Charles May,” said Commissioner Chris Brown. “May’s novel based in South Side Chicago is so full of warmth, humor, and humanity that it’s a natural fit for this year’s theme of programs celebrating our City’s unique neighborhoods.”  

Throughout the 2021 One Book, One Chicago season, CPL will virtually engage Chicago’s adult readers to explore what friendship, family, community, and connection mean as the City continues to safeguard against and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Online “Neighborhoods: Our City’s Bedrock” programs include author events, book discussions, film screenings, art workshops and exhibits, walking tours, storytelling classes, lectures, games, and more. The season will close in December with a keynote program featuring author Eric Charles May in conversation with Booklist’s Adult Book Editor Donna Seaman.  

“It’s been often said that Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. That my novel, Bedrock Faith, which grew out of my South Side neighborhood life, will now be counted among past One Book, One Chicago recipients is a thrill and a true honor,” said author Eric Charles May. “In writing Bedrock Faith, I created a fictive world of working-class and middle-class African Americans that reflected the community of my formative and blissfully uneventful childhood years in Morgan Park. A significant part of that bliss came through the reading of books from the Walker Branch Library. Those books, fiction and nonfiction, were important bricks in the foundation of my imaginative life. Because of that, it is especially sweet for me that it’s the Chicago Public Library awarding my novel this wonderful distinction.” 

Part of One Book, One Chicago’s programs are presented with community partners, such as Loyola University Chicago, Harold Washington College, Northeastern Illinois University, and DePaul University. DePaul University is continuing its ongoing study that explores the impact of citywide literary programs.  

Bedrock Faith was published by the Brooklyn-based Akashic Books, an independent publisher founded by Johnny Temple. Akashic Books is known for its commitment to publishing urban literary fiction and political nonfiction titles outside of the mainstream literary world. 

Bedrock Faith is such a perfect selection for One Book, One Chicago. Rarely is a book this provocative yet so incredibly entertaining,” said Johnny Temple, founder of the book’s publisher, Akashic Books. “Stew Pot Reeves is a true believer for the ages, and in a society obsessed with youth, Mrs. Motley is the most delightful and unlikely of Chicago literary heroes.” 

Bedrock Faith garnered several awards and notoriety following its release. In 2014, the title was named as Publisher Weekly’s Notable African-American Title and a Top Ten Debut Novel for 2014 by Booklist Magazine. Bedrock Faith was also selected as Chicago Public Library Foundation’s 21st Century Award winner in 2015. A native Chicagoan, May has been an associate professor in Columbia College Chicago’s fiction writing program since 1993 and was a former reporter for The Washington Post. His other writings have been featured in numerous publications, such as the Chicago TribuneSolstice, and Flyleaf Journal. 

For complete program information and events, visit Patrons can sign up for monthly e-newsletters updates as well as engage with One Book, One Chicago on Twitter and Facebook by using #OBOC. 

One Book, One Chicago is made possible by United Airlines, Bank of America, the Union Pacific Foundation, Illinois Humanities, and other generous donors to CPL’s philanthropic partner, Chicago Public Library Foundation (CPLF). To learn more about how CPLF supports the Library’s mission and offerings, visit  

About Chicago Public Library

Since 1873, Chicago Public Library (CPL) has encouraged lifelong learning by welcoming all people and offering equal access to information, entertainment, and knowledge through innovative services and programs, as well as cutting-edge technology. Through its 81 locations, the Library provides free access to a rich collection of materials, both physical and digital, and presents the highest quality author discussions, exhibits, and programs for children, teens, and adults. For more information, please call (312) 747-4300 or visit To follow CPL on social media, visit us on Twitter (@chipublib), Facebook (Chicago Public Library), or Instagram (@chicagopubliclibrary). 

About Chicago Public Library Foundation 

The Chicago Public Library Foundation (CPLF) is an independent nonprofit that exists to accelerate the potential of our public library by investing in resources that transform lives and communities. Together with its civic-minded partners, CPLF makes pathways to learning, creativity, and civic engagement accessible to Chicagoans of all ages through investment across three funding priority areas: Closing the Academic Opportunity Gap; Activating Creativity & Connection for All; and Bridging the Digital Divide.