The biggest book club

Manitobans brought together through literature

Author of The Evolution of Alice, David Robertson.

Supplied photo

Literature is bringing Manitobans together, or at least getting them On the Same Page.

On the Same Page, an annual event entering its eighth year, encourages people in the province to all read the same book then take part in events and discussions surrounding it.

“It’s a community building event,” project coordinator Danielle Pilon says. “The idea is just to encourage everyone in the province to try reading the same book.”

Each round begins when several titles are announced for the public to choose from. Voting starts in June and ends in September. The most popular book becomes the focus of the next round.

The program is a partnership between The Winnipeg Foundation and the Winnipeg Public Library, and was launched in 2008.

“It’s very interesting because every year can be completely different,” Pilon says. There are different themes, authors and publishers to work with, which leads to a variety of events.

In 2011, Juliana and the Medicine Fish led to a fishing program at FortWhyte Alive.

North End Love Songs had the On the Same Page team organizing a bus tour around the North End earlier this year with the book’s author, Katherena Vermette.

Each year Pilon says different communities get involved, depending on who the book attracts.

This year’s pick, The Evolution of Alice by David Robertson, was just chosen, so programming has not yet been announced.

Robertson says he imagines that he will be asked to go on a reading tour around Manitoba and he’s excited to share his book.

“There’s some good teaching about indigenous culture,” Robertson says. The Evolution of Alice tells the story of a single mother raising her three daughters on a reserve.

To him, the characters feel real and he’s looking forward to more Manitobans meeting them.

“They’re kind of making new friends,” Robertson says. He’s looking forward to seeing readers connect to the characters who he cares so much about.

Robertson didn’t expect his book to be chosen. He says he doesn’t like to say he was up against other authors, although he was.

Books by Miriam Toews, Maurice Mierau and Tomson Highway were also in the running for the 2016 edition of On the Same Page.

“It was just nice to be in their company,” Robertson says. He’s a fan of all of them as authors and was both surprised and honoured that the public chose his title.

The library is working on ordering copies of the book to distribute for free and planning a programming guide, which will be released in early 2016. Events will be held between February and April.

In the meantime, anyone interested in participating can pick up the book at the library or local booksellers.

Published in Volume 70, Number 8 of The Uniter (October 29, 2015)

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