One Book, One Community

Earlier this week I attended one of the One Book, One Community (OBOC) events in Waterloo Region. This year was the fifteenth anniversary of OBOC, making it the longest running community reading program in Canada. And you know what? I just found out about it three weeks ago!

OBOC encourages an entire community to read the same book and then come together to share in the mutual joy of reading and the experiences it brings. Even though I went to this event by myself, I still had a few conversations with other attendees, and it was great. It was also reassuring to find out that there are so many fellow book nerds in my physical community. Nothing brings people together like conversations about amazing books.

This year’s book was A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout. If you haven’t read it, don’t worry; I’m not going to post any spoilers because I haven’t read it either.

That’s right. I went to a public event where the author of a book I haven’t read was speaking about her book.

“But, wait, why would you do that?!”

It’s simple: I love books, I love talking about books, and I love the powerful, courageous story that Lindhout openly shares with her audience.

If you’re not familiar with Lindhout, a simple Google search will tell you that in August of 2008 she was kidnapped and held hostage for 460 days in Somalia. A House in the Sky chronicles this harrowing time in her life.

This book came out when I was completing my post-grad in International Development. The majority of people around me back then were part of the ex-pat community, so it’s not surprising that this memoir was incredibly popular within my social circles. Friends, fellow students, professors and colleagues were all talking about A House in the Sky. So even though I haven’t read it cover to cover, I am still very familiar with Lindhout’s story.

As soon as I found out that her book was chosen for this year’s OBOC event, I knew I had to go and listen to her speak, and I’m so glad that I did. (I’m also incredibly happy that I arrived early, because only five minutes after the doors opened the theatre seating was full!)

For the event Lindhout was interviewed by Toronto Star National Security Reporter Michelle Shephard. The two are friends, so their conversation flowed very naturally. As soon as they started speaking, the entire room went silent.

Lindhout, whose kidnapping became international news back in 2008, is not ashamed to tell her story to the public. In fact, she openly expanded on stories and details from her book and answered questions from the audience. However, the experience of retelling her story is clearly not an easy one.

She understandably got emotional while recounting certain memories, and her pain was felt throughout the entire audience. I never thought I would cry in a basement room of my local library with over 200 people around me, but it happened.

Her trauma, however, isn’t what defined her presentation, her book, or herself. The raw power, courage, resilience, and “never give up” mentality is what made Lindhout stand out so much. Despite everything that happened to her, she still came into a room full of people, sat on a stage, and spoke for nearly two hours while keeping a smile on her face. If that isn’t the definition of a strong, fierce woman, I don’t know what is.

I could continue describing how inspiring Lindhout is – she is an incredible woman – but instead I’m going to start reading her book. I recommend you do the same.

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