PATERSON, NJ - The Paterson Public Library seems to have a special Valentine’s Day feeling. With the days getting closer to the holiday of the heart they are hoping that Paterson residents will come together to find love. In a book.

On Thursday, more than two dozen residents joined together to kick off the One Book One Paterson themed “Big Read” program funded through a shared grant by the National Endowment of the Arts. 

With 4,000 copies of the selected book on standby, Library Director Corey Fleming hopes the effort will not only engage Patersonians in reading but also spur other creativity including screen plays, community discussions, and more.

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In short, he told TAPinto Paterson, he hopes that through their copy of “A Lesson Before Dying,” the 1993 novel by Ernest J. Gaines, readers will find an opportunity to “use their free expression.”

The themes contained in the book about a young black man who becomes a party to a shootout in which three men are killed are not dissimilar to those occurring in Paterson, and other urban centers across the U.S., Fleming said.

“Segregation, civil rights, racism,” he listed off, are “themes relevant to today’s society, and issues and concerns in Paterson.”

Describing herself as a community leader, feminist, social worker, and mother, Dania Martinez said she agreed to join the organizing committee of the One Book One Paterson because she hopes that by reading together Paterson residents will “learn together.”

“That will make us a stronger, more united community,” Martinez said, adding her wish that it will also “bring about more peace.”

Serving as the project coordinator is Talena Lachelle Queen, Paterson’s poet laureate and a language arts teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr. School. “What if everyone in the city read the same book?” she asked in her recent TAPinto Paterson column.

“We’d all have another layer to add to our shared experiences. It could be amazing to have us all rooting for the same protagonist, puzzling the same plots, enjoying a collective climax - a literary climax.”

While residents of all ages are encouraged to organize their own discussion groups and other ways to enjoy the book together, the library will also host events, including a discussion on the first 15 chapters of the text on Wednesday, March 4, and a second one on the final 15 chapters on April 8. Both discussions will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Residents can sign up for a free copy of the book and register their interest in participating in the effort by clicking here.

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