To read is a gift. Whether it be a road sign or store billboard, a book, magazine or newspaper, an email, social media post, text, or rarely these days, a personal handwritten letter, reading unites people of all ages, cultures and beliefs throughout the world.
In particular, the mission to share books, to unite readers and to develop literacy and encourage community involvement drives One Book One Valley, an initiative established by six local towns, businesses, libraries, schools and citizens of the Vail Valley in Colorado. Vail is an international, wealthy resort area, but local valley demographics differ; residents and workers represent diverse incomes and ethnic backgrounds — some don’t speak or read English. This popular program successfully unites the mountain community with the support of The Bookworm of Edwards, the sole independent bookstore in the Vail Valley.
Certainly the “one book community” concept isn’t unique to this locale. The national Library of Congress website (www.read.gov) reveals an extensive list of One Book Projects around the U.S. from Maine to Maui. What if everyone reads the same book and then talks about it? That’s the idea behind One Book. A state or city chooses a book and encourages locals to read it and share in special events to discuss it.
One Book One Valley expands every year. The selection committee favors new or backlist titles by regional authors which explore western or southwestern themes, are accessible to high school and adult readers, and, in a perfect world, are available in both English and Spanish.
Especially relevant to today’s turbulent political issues, the 2019 One Book One Valley read is “The Last Of The Menu Girls” by Denise Chavez, originally published in 1986 and newly revised for English and Spanish editions. Chavez is Mexican-American and owns Casa Camino Real Bookstore in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Her novel showcases the imagination and voice of Roccio Esquibel, an adolescent girl growing up in a fictional border town which reflects the light, energy and tensions of Las Cruces and the stark ambiance of Far West Texas.
Chavez makes a valuable contribution to Chicana literature with her writing. She is also the author of “Loving Pedro,” and “Face Of An Angel” won the American Book Award honoring excellence in American literature without restriction or bias with regard to race, sex, creed, cultural origin, size of press/ad budget or even genre.
She is the founder of the Border Book Festival and the organizer of the current Refugee Book Drive in partnership with the American Booksellers Association (ABA). With the national participation of ABA members like The Bookworm of Edwards and other widespread donors, her bookstore will disseminate books to refugee families, working with various hospitality centers on the U.S./ Mexico border to offer the gift of reading.
“I am deeply honored as well to be a multicultural representative for my Mexican-American ancestors in a time of challenge that continues to show us we are all one people,” writes Chavez.
PAST TITLES, ALL RECOMMENDED READS, INCLUDE:
2012 “Doc” by Mary Doria Russell
2013 “Into The Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea
2014 “Finders Keepers: Tale of Archaeological Plunder and Obsession” by Craig Childs
2015 “The Cold Dish” by Craig Johnson
2016 “We Are Called To Rise” by Laura McBride
2017 “The High Divide” by Lin Enger
Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2019 issue.