Each year, the Chelmsford Library selects One Book that brings the Town together through reading, discussion, and programming. For 2022, we’re asking for you to help us decide what to read! We have picked four books that have been popular, are well-written, tell great stories and lend themselves well to issue-oriented discussion and programming.
Read through the descriptions of the four here, and then cast your vote anytime through the month of October, either in the library or online, to help us decide!
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born. That history, whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam, serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but under-girded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.
Why read On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous?: Winner of the Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction and nominated for the National Book Award, this is a novel about self-discovery and the redemptive power of storytelling.
There, There, by Tommy Orange
A novel that grapples with the complex history of Native Americans, with an inheritance of profound spirituality, but also of addiction, abuse and suicide, follows 12 characters, each of whom has private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. As we learn the reasons that each person is attending—some generous, some fearful, some joyful, some violent—momentum builds toward a shocking yet inevitable conclusion that changes everything. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and will perform in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and loss.
Why read There There? : A finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize, this is a rich novel that highlights a complex and painful part of American history – one we all should know.
Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.
Why read Kindred?:In this classic of American science fiction, Butler, a multiple recipient of the Hugo and Nebula awards grapples with the legacy of slavery and the struggle to reckon with generations of trauma.
Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy
Franny Stone has always been the kind of woman who is able to love but unable to stay. Leaving behind everything but her research gear, she arrives in Greenland with a singular purpose: to follow the last Arctic terns in the world on what might be their final migration to Antarctica. Franny talks her way onto a fishing boat, and she and the crew set sail, traveling ever further from shore and safety. But as Franny’s history begins to unspool—a passionate love affair, an absent family, a devastating crime—it becomes clear that she is chasing more than just the birds. When Franny’s dark secrets catch up with her, how much is she willing to risk for one more chance at redemption?
Why read Migrations?: An excellent addition to the “eco-lit” genre, this novel is an ode to a vanishing world, but still ultimately hopeful and beautiful.