Troy Library’s Woke Reading Challenge Shares Stories of Diverse Experiences

Troy Library’s Woke Reading Challenge Shares Stories of Diverse Experiences

(Leslie Ellis, Jan. 14, 2021)

The Troy Public Library invites patrons to join the ‘Woke’ reading challenge Jan. 11-Feb. 28 to win prizes and gain a greater understanding of different people, places, cultures and experiences from around the world.

Participants will read books from curated “Woke” reading lists and log reviews for an opportunity to win weekly prizes, ranging from Barnes & Noble gift cards to a Kindle Paperwhite. The reading lists will cover topics including immigration, world religions, world cultures and diverse abilities.

“The lists will be guidelines only. Participants are welcome to read what they choose but, when writing short reviews, must include how each title provides insight into a life that is different from their own,” said Adult Information Services Librarian Cassandra Suh. “Participants will log their reviews and then be automatically entered into the prize drawings. The more you read, the greater your chances are for winning!”

Connie Doherty, head of Adult Information Services at the library, said she hopes the program will provide a post-holiday pick-me-up, as well as an opportunity for patrons to challenge themselves to think about different perspectives.

“Our community is widely diverse, and one of the best things about reading, listening to, or watching a story about someone who has lived a very different existence from your own is that you might understand them better — as they will hopefully better understand you by sharing in stories that reflect your experiences,” Doherty said. “We believe that anything that increases tolerance and understanding is a beautiful thing.”

Olivia Olson, Troy’s Outreach Librarian, shared some of her favorites from the list.

Places I’ve Taken My Body by Molly McCully Brown is about the author’s experiences living with cerebral palsy.  “This was the first book of essays I’ve ever read that was written by a person with a disability,” Olson said. “I really got to see inside Molly McCully Brown’s world in these pieces– I came away with a better understanding of what it’s like to move through the world with mobility limitations, and I also came away with great respect for the writer’s intelligent, thoughtful writing style. I was especially moved by the essays describing Brown’s travels in Italy and her perspective on relationships and desire.”

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is about a young adult navigating life and how it intertwines with the family of the child she babysits. “I can’t stop thinking about Such a Fun Age. I thought the characters (who all came from different racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds) were handled with such nuance — everyone was portrayed as a messy, complicated human being, and even when a character acted in a way I found repellant, the author helped me to see why they made the choices they did. A mark of a great read!” Olson said.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah also impressed the Librarian. “Not only was I completely transfixed by this story of a mischievous trouble-maker’s coming of age, I was engrossed in learning about what life was like in post-apartheid South Africa. I thought I’d had some idea of what happened during those years, but reading through Noah’s lived experience gave me insight I would never have been able to get from a history book. I found this book super funny and Noah’s relationship with his mother incredibly moving.”

The Woke Reading Lists include a variety of books with different levels of difficulty.  Other titles include: I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People To Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents by Julia Alvarez, The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, and Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Aspergers.

Register at to participate.

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