Every spring and fall, the Chicago Public Libraries designate a book to feature in their One Book, One Chicago program. Chosen novels have varied widely in topic and scope and have included books centered around Chicago, such as last fall’s selection, The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Making of the American City by Carl Smith and House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros and classics, like James Baldwin’s Go Tell it on the Mountain and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. This spring’s selection, announced earlier this month, takes a different approach by introducing contemporary, Irish author, Colm Tóibín’s award-winning novel, Brooklyn.
Brooklyn centers around a reluctant Irish immigrant, Eilis Lacey, as she learns to navigate through her new world in Brooklyn. While Eilis notes numerous similarities, such as church dances, between the fast-paced urban environment of her new home and the less-dense but still bustling village of Enniscorthy, Ireland, Eilis is also deeply aware of the differences, particularly racial and ethnic, that make her new home feel startlingly unfamiliar. Bridging the contrasts between the home she left and the home she has found, Eilis learns to carve out her own place in a new community.
In order to initiate discussion, the city has supplied a research guide to the novel. The guide includes a question and answer session with the author, biographical information, and a list of featured events, including a staged reading interspersed with Irish music on April 11th and a book discussion with Tóibín that will take place on April 21st.