One Book One Community program to host author Ruta Sepetys
Every storyteller has a story to tell about themselves. Author Ruta Sepetys is coming to Park City to tell hers, and to encourage listeners to discover their own.
Sepetys is scheduled to visit Park City on Jan. 8 and 9. She will first speak to students at Park City High School who have read or plan to read her book, “Salt to the Sea.” She is scheduled to visit with the public on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Jim Santy Auditorium in the Park City Library.
The novel and author were selected as part of the One Book One Community event, which is put on by a combined effort from the Park City Education Foundation, Park City High School and the local libraries. During the program, everyone in the community is encouraged to read a book and, after other program events in the community, the author visits Park City to speak. Sara Hutchinson, program officer for the foundation, said that the book was chosen because it is entertaining for all ages.
“Salt to the Sea” is historical fiction and takes place in Eastern Europe during the final years of World War II. The story is told through the perspective of four refugees in search of freedom. Hutchinson said that the novel was also appealing because it references a story from modern history that most people are unaware of.
In an interview with The Park Record, Sepetys said that she is excited to visit Park City and hopes that those who participate in the One Book One Community program are able to walk away learning that hidden history is important.
“When suffering and struggle are acknowledged, we can take a step toward restoring human dignity,” she said. “Every person that reads the book or attends the event, they are acknowledging the struggle of those who came before them.”
The novel “Salt to the Sea” tells a fictionalized version of the story of Sepetys’ father’s cousin. During her visit, she said that she will talk about the importance of finding your own story, including that of your ancestors.
“I want the young people to ask their parents and ask their grandparents,” she said. “I think knowledge of stories deepens our sense of self.”
At the high school, Sepetys also wants to focus on the writing process and the research she had to do for the novel.
Having students learn about the challenges authors face while writing and editing books is what Kelly Yeates loves about the program. Yeates, an English teacher at the high school and co-coordinator of the program, said that the students can gain a lot from the visit.
“I think that talking to a real author and hearing the intentional choices that authors make and why they made them is really important,” she said. “I love when kids hear about the editing process and the multiple drafts the authors go through before the final product.”
Yeates also said that students often come away learning that their writing is for a broader audience than just a teacher.
“Our writing can influence and inform outside of just a classroom setting,” she said.
Plus, she said, each year, students come and talk about how, after meeting the author, they appreciate the book even more. For kids who skipped the reading, they have more of a drive to read the novel after hearing the author speak.
Hutchinson said that there is something to learn for anyone who comes, whether it is about the story or about the process of the story writing.
“It’s such an inspirational event,” she said. “I’m a reader and I love to hear the background of how she chose the story, how she did her research and what her challenges were.”
Sepetys said that anyone can gain something from the community discussion, even those who have not read the novel. Talking about history and connecting with others can only benefit society, she said.
“I think to truly understand these type of crises, we need to see their faces,” she said. “And through books and stories, that’s how we see their faces. Stories allow us to walk beside these human beings for 300 pages, feeling their fear.”
Events were held throughout December in connection with the Park City Library, the Summit County Library and Dolly’s Bookstore.
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The Park City School District offices were inadvertently locked, but security footage was reviewed and the only two community members who showed up were let in and joined in an informal chat with Board of Education members and staff.