In his book Imagined Communities, the scholar Benedict Anderson might as well have been talking about New Orleans when he said that a community "is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion."
The Young Leadership Council is creating a literary New Orleans communion again this year with its annual One Book One New Orleans project, when it invites the entire community to read the same book and attend a series of events geared toward its central themes. This year, the selection is Louisiana, a novel by the Jamaican sociologist and social activist Erna Brodber.
The book is the story of Ella Townsend, a Jamaican-born anthropologist who travels to St. Mary Parish on an anthropology fellowship from Columbia University to document the lives of the Southeast Louisiana community. The YLC kicked off the event last night at the Marigny Opera House, just a week after local reading champion and host of WWNO's The Reading Life Susan Larson celebrated New Orleans literary culture with the rerelease of her essential literary guidebook to the city. The YLC has a calendar of events for the one book project slated until Dec. 4.
One goal of this year's event is to start a conversation about low literacy rates in New Orleans. According to data collected by the YLC, the adult low-literacy rate is 26 percent in the New Orleans metro area, higher than a national average of 23 percent. Thanks to a donation by Shell, the YLC was able to donate 600 copies of the book to literacy programs across the city. Louisiana can be purchased at bookstores around the city.
Upcoming One Book One New Orleans events are:
Oct. 2: Who do the voo doo?: Panel discussion featuring scholars and practitioners, Freeman Auditorium, Tulane University, 7 McAlister Drive, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Oct. 24: The voices on the reel: Community book discussion, Will W. Alexander Library, Dillard University, 2601 Gentilly Blvd., 6-8 p.m.
Nov. 4: Spirits and spells: A young professional happy hour, Gasa Gasa, 4920 Freret St., 5:30-7:30 p.m. Admission fee is a book donation.
Nov. 10: Keeping traditions alive: Volunteer books to prisoners packing party, YLC Headquarters, 1840 Euterpe St., 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Late November: Louisiana, a novel: A reading by author Erna Brodber, Xavier University
Dec. 4: Gumbo and gris gris: One book one New Orleans finale, Cafe Reconcile, 1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 6-9 p.m.
All of the events are free and open to the public. Visit the One Book One New Orleans website for more information, and to learn about an essay contest for students in grades 4-12.