Book chosen for ‘One Book’

Cameron Witbeck

The Marquette area One Book, One Community (OBOC) selection committee recently announced Aleksander Hemon’s “The Lazarus Project” as their 2011 book.

The selection process, which began last December, ended this March when the selection committee decided on Hemon’s novel. OBOC, which is composed of members from NMU and the Marquette community, will organize a series of events around the book to help foster communication and discussion between the students at the university and Marquette residents, said Dana Schulz, head of OBOC’s selection committee.

Schulz said that “The Lazarus Project” was chosen because it has the potential to appeal to a very wide audience for a variety of reasons.

“This book is accessible enough to be entertaining but layered enough to inspire thoughtful discussions,” she said. “(Hemon) makes you laugh while he breaks his heart. The quality of the literature is really high.”

In the novel, Hemon, a MacArthur Fellow, weaves two narratives, one set in the early 1900s and the other in modern times, together. At the heart of the book are two characters with ties to Bosnia, and Hemon, who was born in the former country of Yugoslavia, explores how they are connected despite being separated by over a hundred years.

Schulz said that another reason the book was chosen was to show a culture that many people in Marquette might not be familiar with.

“We try to pick books about cultures different than our own so people can experience something new,” she said.

In the past, OBOC has organized events like movie nights, book discussions, and author presentations that are related to themes or ideas presented in the selected book. Schulz said that the organization plans on offering similar events for the upcoming year. She also said that Hemon will hopefully be able to come to Marquette in November.

Jen Howard, assistant professor of English and director of NMU’s Visiting Writers Program, said that having a book’s author on campus and in the community is an integral part of the OBOC experience.

“My favorite part of (OBOC) is the author visit,” Howard said. “Students get a chance to hear about the writing process, to ask questions about the meaning and genesis of the book, to get to the source. I think it’s also an important moment for aspiring writers who get to see that writers are human and to learn more about just how much and what kind of work it takes to get where they are,” Howard said.

Tom Rich, English graduate student at NMU and member of OBOC’s selection committee, said that the author’s visit adds another level of interactivity to the program.

“The author visit provides a capstone to the entire (OBOC) experience,” he said. “It’s a celebration of what the book was over the year and everyone’s experience reading it.”

Rich also said the visit and other events serve one of OBOC’s primary functions, which is to bring the NMU and Marquette communities closer through the shared experiences of reading and discussing a book together.

“A huge amount of people are reading the book … (so) having the event is a great way to prompt that sort of interaction between the groups,” Rich said. “It fosters a notion in both groups that the university is a part of the community.”