1book 1community unites Loudoun County readers

LEESBURG — Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai, is Loudoun County Public Library’s 2017 title for 1book 1community, a countywide program that promotes community dialogue and understanding through the shared experience of reading and discussing the same book.

Thousands of free copies are now available at all LCPL branches and unlimited eBook copies can be downloaded from OverDrive at lcpl.overdrive.com through Nov. 30. 

Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again, a New York Times No. 1 bestseller, was inspired by the author’s experiences of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon. 

Readers can meet Lai at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn. Lai will discuss her work, answer questions and sign copies of her book. A Q&A session will be conducted by Chuong Nguyen, the LCPL Board of Trustees representative for the Dulles District, who, like Lai, fled communist Vietnam as a child with his family in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The program is free and open to the public. 

Lai is donating her entire speaking fee to her nonprofit, Viet Kids, which buys bicycles for low-income students in Vietnam who otherwise would have to walk two hours each way to school.

Prior to Lai’s visit, readers can discuss Inside Out and Back Again at numerous book clubs at LCPL branches through November. 

Inside Out and Back Again is Lai’s debut novel. Through a series of short free-verse poems, a young girl recounts the life-changing year of 1975, when she, her mother and her brothers leave Vietnam and resettle in Alabama. The novel — a winner of the National Book Award — has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration. 

“This year’s 1book is a sweet, at times funny, and very relatable story,” said Chang Liu, LCPL director. “Anyone who has ever struggled with family loss or the insecurity of feeling different can identify with it. I encourage everyone to read and discuss it, and join us for the author’s presentation.”

1book 1community is made possible by the Irwin Uran Gift Fund.

Previous 1book 1community titles and authors:

2016: Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

2015: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

2014: Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

2013: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

2012: When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka

2011: Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

2010: Bicycles: Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni

2009: The Wall: Growing Up Behing the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis

2008:  Nothing But the Truth by Avi

2007:  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

2006:  The Giver by Lois Lowry

2005:  Witness by Karen Hesse

2004: The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal

A countywide reading program that promotes community dialogue and understanding through the shared experience of reading and discussing the same book.

Sponsored by the Irwin Uran Gift Fund

What would you do if you could not make yourself known, if you had thoughts you could not speak? That is narrator Melody Brooks’ plight: “By the time I was two, all my memories had words, and all my words had meanings. But only in my head,” she writes. “I have never spoken one single word.” Melody’s world is enhanced by insight and intellect, but hindered by physical limitations and misunderstandings. She will never sing or dance, talk on the phone or whisper secrets to her friends. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind, that is until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice... but not everyone around her is ready to hear it. This is a book that defies age categorization, a story that will enlighten and resonate with all readers.

Out of My Mind
is the story of a ten-year-old-girl who has spirit and determination, intelligence and wit, and no one knows it. How frustrating! Imagine yourself in the same situation. Melody, whose very name sounds like a song, loves words, however. She says, “Words have always swirled around me like snowflakes— each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands... Words were like sweet, liquid gifts, and I drank them like lemonade. I could almost taste them.” Melody uses words like weapons to fight her daily battles. She has a brilliant mind, a photographic memory and dreams and desires of any child her age. Throughout the novel, I tried to show the power of language, and the deep, rhythmic heartbeat of words in our lives. “Everybody uses words to express themselves. Except me. And I bet most people don’t realize the real power of words. But I do. Thoughts need words. Words need a voice.” Melody’s voice will soon be heard all over Loudoun County, and I really look forward to sharing her words with all of you, and listening to your words as well.

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper is the selected title this year. This book tells a story that is sure to provoke discussion among readers of all ages. Out of My Mind speaks for those who cannot speak. It reveals the quiet strength and fortitude it takes to overcome disabilities and the misconceptions that go with them. It reminds us of the humanity in us all. It is impossible to close this book without thinking about the world differently. We are grateful to the Irwin Uran Gift Fund which is providing copies of the book to our community.

Copies of Out of My Mind are available at library branches, the County Government Building and through Outreach Services. Whether you share your ideas with your neighbors, or attend one of the many book discussion groups or programs at the library, we are sure you will find the experience to be enlightening and thought-provoking.

We wish to thank the 2014 1book 1community Selection Committee for the time and effort
they dedicated to the project.