For 18 years, East Lansing and Michigan State University have joined forces to provide to encourage its residents – permanent and temporary ones — to read.
The One Book One Community committee selects a book for incoming Michigan State University freshmen and the local East Lansing community to read.
“We meet once a week year-round and we discuss books, themes and programming,” said Kristin Shelley, the director of East Lansing Public Library, and on One Book One Community’s planning committee. “We are constantly reading and throwing titles out.”
This year, the committee decided to include the community in the selection process.
“We narrowed it down to three books,” said Shelley. “We thought it would be kind of cool if they community helped us choose the title. So there was a survey done… and the majority voted for ‘Evicted.’”
“Evicted,” by Matthew Desmond, is a Pulitzer Prize winning book that, according to the One Book One Community website, “transports readers to the poorest neighborhoods in Milwaukee to tell the heartbreaking, real-life stories of eight families struggling to keep a roof over their heads.”
As part of the One Book One Community event, Desmond will be in East Lansing on Aug. 25-26 to meet with the community and discuss its themes.
“He’s a leading scholar on these issues,” said Erin Luyendyk, manager of the One Book One Community committee. “We’re really excited to have him here.”
Shelley said she hopes the chance for the community to meet with Desmond can be a launching point for further discussion.
“It’s something we just haven’t tackled in this community well,” said Shelley, “and we tend not to talk about it.
“East Lansing is a heavily rental area and rented community. All the student housing and everything, that’s all rentals. Maybe I, and other community members, just aren’t aware of these evictions that happen in our community.”
Community member Janet Muir said she looks forward to One Book One Community every year. She said this year’s topic is especially important to her.
“During my education specialist work I researched the special needs of homeless students,” said Muir, “which really opened my eyes to the instability of housing in our country.”
Muir has not yet read “Evicted,” but said it is the next on her list.
Muir believes the entire community should read the book and participate in the events.
“Affordable housing is one of the most important issues of the day,” said Muir. “Stable housing impacts all of one’s life.”
To further educate the community on the impacts of eviction, One Book One Community will provide extensive programing and workshops to fully engage the community with the book and its themes.
Events for Michigan State University students include a speech by Desmond at student convocation, followed by a Q&A.
Events for the East Lansing community include writing workshops and film screenings related to the themes of “Evicted.”
“This program was established to reach that goal of bringing our communities together: our MSU campus community and our East Lansing community,” said Luyendyk. “I would say initially, it started as trying to create a bridge between the two communities, and build and strengthen that relationship.”