This year’s One Book One Community program unites people a world away

The first time Camron Wright heard about Sang Ly’s life, he assumed they had little to nothing in common. But watching his son’s documentary about her experiences and the realities of living in a garbage dump in Cambodia changed his mind.

Now, after writing a novel inspired by Ly, Wright wants to help everyone realize how similar all people are, even half a world away.

Wright, the author of “The Rent Collector,” is scheduled to visit Park City and speak at various events about his book as part of the One Book One Community program this month. The annual program, which is put on by the Park City Education Foundation, selects one novel and invites students, parents, teachers and community members to read it in advance of a visit from the book’s author.

To kick off the event, Dolly’s Bookstore plans to host a book discussion about “The Rent Collector” on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 5 p.m. The Summit County Library is scheduled to screen “River of Victory,” the documentary created by Wright’s son that inspired the novel, on Oct. 11 at 7 p.m.

Wright is set to speak to students at Park City High School on Oct. 16 and 17 and to the public at the Jim Santy Auditorium in the Park City Library on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.

Kelly Yeates, an English teacher at the high school who helped select the book, said the book selection committee chose “The Rent Collector” because of its emphasis on hope. The story takes place in a garbage dump in Cambodia, where people like Ly and her husband Ki Lim live. They scavenge for recyclable materials to make ends meet and pay for the medical expenses of their chronically ill child. In the story, Ly discovers the power literacy has to help her and her family break the cycle of poverty.

Yeates said the themes of literacy, poverty and oppression throughout the book have been interesting talking points in classes where her students are reading and discussing the book.

“For our students, literacy is so ever-present in their lives and is so abundant and accessible,” she said. “We really don’t look at it as a privilege, we look at it is a part of life. To see how hard some people have to work for it is, I think, inspiring for students.”

Wright said he hopes people who read the book gain a love of literature, or at least an understanding of how important the ability to read is.

“Whether you live in a garbage dump or a beautiful home in Park City, or wherever that may be, reading and literature can change our lives,” he said.

He said the book can help people relate to Ly and others in her circumstances. The One Book One Community program, he said, is beneficial because it unites a community around a single story.

During his visit, he wants to inspire students to pursue their dreams. He said he was just a “normal guy” who had an idea for a book. Now, he is the author of multiple best-sellers.

Kara Cody, programs director for the Park City Education Foundation, said she also hopes Wright’s story will be an example to students that “anything is possible,” especially because Wright is a Utah author. Every year, she hopes the book chosen for One Book One Community can spur conversations in the community, since that is one of the goals of the program. This book, she said, is doing just that.

“It gives students and the community a global perspective,” she said. “It really opens up people’s eyes to other parts of the world.”


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