By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
Those who participated in the inaugural Palisades Reads in 2019 might remember sitting in a circle at Palisades Branch Library, snacking on cookies and diving into a discussion of “Shelter Us,” a novel penned by Palisadian author Laura Diamond.
Though gatherings look different this year, the second annual Palisades Reads, a communitywide book club to “foster connections, spark conversations and celebrate reading,” aims to create the same feeling of community—just via Zoom to adhere to restrictions on gatherings in the era of COVID-19.
When asked why it was particularly important for the Friends to host Palisades Reads this year, 2020 Committee Member Diamond joked: “Because no one can get enough Zoom meetings!”
“Of course, the real answer is that it is our very mission to bring the community together,” Diamond shared. “With the increased isolation of the last several months, and so many people restricted to their homes or small groups, and the loss of the community traditions, the need to connect is especially acute.”
And, due to the virtual nature of this year’s event, Friends of the Palisades Library President Laura Schneider said, they will be able to open up Palisades Reads to participation from a wider community, including members of the 72 Friends of the Library organizations throughout Los Angeles.
The 2020 selection, which Palisadians are encouraged to obtain and read ahead of the December 3 discussion, is “In the Not Quite Dark: Stories” by author Dana Johnson.
“In her brilliant collection, Dana Johnson presents a vision of America that is singular and necessary,” Palisades Charter High School alum and National Book Award finalist Karen Bender said of the book. “These are superb stories grappling with the complexities of love and the way it winds through gender and race and class in our nation right now. Johnson is an expert at exploring how the world tries to separate us—and how her characters find urgent ways to connect.”
The Palisades Reads team started the selection process by taking nominations from the community, Diamond explained, and reached out to local literary resources for suggestions.
“It was also important to us to consider authors from marginalized communities in publishing, and those whose excellent writing featured topical issues ripe for conversation,” Diamond said.
She added that they were drawn to the collection of short stories for several reasons.
“With 2020 being defined by atypical experiences, it felt appropriate to try a different genre than a novel,” she said. “We also thought the short form might allow more readers to participate meaningfully, even if they didn’t have the time to read a full-length novel.”
The stories in Johnson’s book, which Diamond described as “gripping and provocative,” are set in Los Angeles.
Friends of the Palisades Library have purchased a limited number of copies from DIESEL, A Bookstore to provide to community members. “In the Not Quite Dark: Stories” is also available via the Libby app and wherever books are sold.
A discussion of the book, joined by Johnson and once again led by Diamond, will take place on December 3 starting at 5 p.m. A link to the Zoom will be provided upon RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org, which is also the email address to use if interested in obtaining a complimentary copy of the book.
“During these difficult and isolating times,” Schneider concluded, “it’s very important that the library remains a resource for the community and this is one way that we believe the Friends can help build connections and make that happen.”
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