Silicon Valley Reads focuses on ‘Journey to New Beginnings’

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Silicon Valley Reads will set off on a “Journey to New Beginnings” next year, when the community reading program celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Jennifer Weeks, Santa Clara County Library District’s county librarian, said the theme for 2023 reflects the steps Silicon Valley Reads has already taken over the last two decades.

“We started as a one-book, one-community program in 2003 and over the years have broadened our scope to become more inclusive and reflective of the many communities that make up Silicon Valley,” said Weeks, a Silicon Valley Reads co-chair, in a statement.

The program offers Santa Clara County residents the chance to read selected books around the year’s theme and to attend author talks and other events, including panel discussions, educational events, demonstrations, performances, adult classes, activities for students, story times and an in-person art show.

Next year’s kickoff is set for Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023 with an in-person and livestreamed event including featured authors Tommy Orange, Amanda Skenandore and Kai Harris at the Visual and Performing Arts Center Theater at De Anza College in Cupertino.

Orange’s novel “There There” follows 12 characters from Native American communities who are all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow and are all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. The novel focuses on the plight of urban Native Americans grappling with a complex and painful history. “There There” won the 2019 PEN/Hemingway Award and the 2018 National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

In Skenandore’s “The Second Life of Mirielle West,” the glamorous world of a silent film star’s wife abruptly crumbles when she is detained at the Carville Lepers Home. Set in 1920s Louisiana and Los Angeles and based on the true story of continental America’s only leper colony, the novel brings to life the Louisiana institution where thousands of people were stripped of their civil rights, branded as lepers and forcibly quarantined throughout the entire 20th century.

The protagonist of “What the Fireflies Knew” by Harris is 11-year-old Kenyatta Bernice, or KB. This coming-of-age novel follows KB and her teenage sister, Nia, as they are sent to live with their estranged grandfather after the death of their father and the loss of their home. The novel tackles themes of family, identity and race.

“These three novels each feature unique journeys that act as mirrors or windows for our diverse community,” said San Jose City Library Director Jill Bourne, another Silicon Valley Reads co-chair. “Some people may relate to the plight of the characters, and others will glean insight into unique perspectives.”

For younger readers, Silicon Valley Reads has selected four companion books around this year’s theme: “Coqui in the City” by Nomar Perez, in both Spanish and English for preK-1 students; “Sugar in Milk” by Thrity Umrigar for second- through fourth-graders; “When Stars are Scattered” by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed for students in grades 5-8; and “Furia” by Yamile Saied Mendez for high school students.

Silicon Valley Reads is presented annually by Santa Clara County Library District, Santa Clara County Office of Education and San Jose Public Library in conjunction with other public libraries, community colleges and universities, and community organizations.

In addition to Bourne and Weeks, program co-chairs are Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Dewan and San Jose City Library Deputy Director Michelle Ornat.

While community engagement is central to Silicon Valley Reads, Dewan said the program’s educational component is equally important.

“Silicon Valley Reads helps to increase literacy and demonstrates the importance of books, writing and conversation for schools, parents, children and the community,” Dewan said in a statement.

A complete schedule of events is set to be published in early January at Responding to attendee feedback from the past two years, Silicon Valley Reads will continue to offer some virtual options in 2023.


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