Rochester NY: Last week, Writers & Books wrapped up the nineteenth year of its annual community reading program, Rochester Reads. This year the organization hosted Omar El Akkad, author of the award-winning novel American War. El Akkad’s residency in Rochester included 5 days of events, readings, book signings, and lectures. El Akkad visited various locations in Rochester and the Finger Lakes area including libraries (Central, Penfield, Wood, Greece), college campuses (MCC, FLCC, Geneseo, Nazareth College, St. John Fisher College), high schools (SOTA), a senior living center (Valley Manor), and the Monroe Correctional Facility. This year more than 1100 people attended these readings.
American War is a powerful and surprisingly prescient novel about a second US Civil War in the late 21st century. After climate change led to political upheaval and a decimation of the population, a plague is unleashed and further devastates the country’s population. One family is caught in the middle of the divided regions and conflicted alliances and the effects of this fractured country on a young girl has consequences for generations.
This is a narrative that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself. It is a story of ruin, of revenge, of division—but also a lesson in empathy, connection, and the ties that can either bind or break us.
“This year’s program offered an important novel that leaves an indelible impression on readers. And the myriad audiences who came out to see the author in person were treated to a thoughtful, engaging, wide-ranging conversation—and that community engagement is at the core of this program,” said Karen vanMeenen, Coordinator of Rochester Reads.
Writers & Books is Rochester’s nationally renowned non-profit literary center located at 740 University Avenue, in the heart of Rochester’s Neighborhood of the Arts. In 2001, Writers & Books initiated the Rochester Reads program. The program seeks to encourage people to connect to others in our community through reading and discussion, and through the shared experience of literature. Each year Writers & Books selects one book for our community to explore together, leading to a residency by the author.