Panel Chooses 2 Finalists for Washtenaw Libraries Book Discussion

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 09/12/2016 - 18:27

Good news for Washtenaw County!

Area libraries and community organizations have banded together to expand the successful Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Community Read to now include Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Northfield Township and Saline. 

Representatives from all seven communities have been busy all summer planning for Washtenaw Reads 2017.  This year’s theme is A Very Good Read and the titles considered were works of both fiction and nonfiction. 

A summer screening committee of library staff, bookstore representatives, and area teachers has narrowed book choices down to two titles – one fiction and one non-fiction.  A panel of local individuals will read both books and determine which one will be chosen for Washtenaw Reads 2017. 

What is Washtenaw Reads 2017?

Washtenaw Reads is a community initiative to promote reading and civic dialogue through the shared experience of reading and discussing a common book. 

Library, University, bookstore, and community representatives from Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Northfield Township, Saline, and Ypsilanti have been meeting for several months planning this year’s community read, which will take place in January – February 2017. 

Which books are under consideration?

A selection panel will choose one of two books: 

  • Aline Ohanesian, Orhan's Inheritance: A Novel. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2015
  • Kathryn J. Edin & H. Luke Shaefer, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.

Short descriptions of each book are as follows:

  • A moving debut novel that showcases formidable storytelling talents and powerful truths- Aline Ohanesian, Orhan's Inheritance: A Novel. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2015

When Orhan’s brilliant and eccentric grandfather, who built a dynasty out of making kilim rugs, is found dead, submerged in a vat of dye, Orhan inherits the decades-old business. But his grandfather has left the family estate to a stranger thousands of miles away, Seda, an aging woman in a retirement home in Los Angeles.

Over time, Orhan begins to unearth the story that eighty-seven-year-old Seda so closely guards–a story that, if it’s told, has the power to undo the legacy upon which Orhan’s family is built and could unravel Orhan’s own future.

  • More than a powerful expose of a troubling trend, a book that delivers new evidence and new ideas to our central national debate on work, income inequality, and what to do about it.- Kathryn J. Edin & H. Luke Shaefer, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.

.Jessica Compton’s family of four would have no income if she didn’t donate plasma twice a week at her local donation center in Tennessee. Modonna Harris and her teenage daughter Brianna, in Chicago, have gone for days with nothing to eat other than spoiled milk.

After two decades of groundbreaking research on American poverty, Kathryn Edin noticed something she hadn’t seen before — households surviving on virtually no cash income. Edin, whose deep examination of her subjects’ lives has “turned sociology upside down” (Mother Jones), teamed with Luke Shaefer, an expert on surveys of the incomes of the poor. The two made a surprising discovery: the number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to one and a half million American households, including about three million children.

But the fuller story remained to be told. Where do these families live? How did they get so desperately poor? What do they do to survive? In search of answers, Edin and Shaefer traveled across the country to speak with families living in this extreme poverty. Through the book’s many compelling profiles, moving and startling answers emerge: a low-wage labor market that increasingly fails to deliver a living wage, and a growing but hidden landscape of survival strategies among America’s extreme poor.

How May I Locate Copies of These Books?

Copies of the books are available through your local bookstore.  A limited number of copies are also available through your local library.

How May I Provide Feedback To The Selection Committee?

You may add your comments to the books blog at   The selection committee will check the blogs periodically for comments.

How May I Participate In The Read?

The official read will take place in January through February 2017.  For now, you may:

  • obtain copies of the two books from your local library or book store
  • read the books
  • log on to the website ( before mid-September and offer your feedback.

For more information, check out the Washtenaw Reads website at

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