Cherry Hill Public Library to offer ‘One Book, One Cherry Hill’ this fall

Program attempts to bridge gaps between diverse populations in region.

Cherry Hill Public Library has brought back ‘One Book, One Cherry Hill’ this fall, featuring ‘No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black & Free in America’ by Darnell L. Moore. Deena Caswell, CHPL’s supervisor of outreach and diversity, has planned a series of discussions and events surrounding the work.

Cherry Hill Public Library is continuing its commitment to a diverse array of programming this fall, with a new series called “One Book, One Cherry Hill” – a community reading project intended to unite the township in reading and discussing a single book with themes and perspectives of which residents may not be aware.

The book chosen for the resumption of the program is “No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America,” written in 2017 by award-winning author Darnell L. Moore, featuring a stunning connection with the township. 

“(Moore) came to prominence with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, but wrote this memoir about his childhood and speaking about himself from being a queer, Black man growing up in poverty in his community. In the book, he explicitly mentions Cherry Hill and anyone who’s grown up in this region knows there’s this dichotomy of Camden is one way (of living), and Cherry Hill is another way,” said Deena Caswell, the library’s outreach and diversity supervisor. 

“So, when I read this book, I wanted to bring it into the project, because I feel that people of Cherry Hill would gain something by reading it. Our humanities scholar is Dr. Keith Green, an associate professor of history at Rutgers-Camden, and he’s the director of Africana Studies there. He’s been working with us as we develop programming.”  

Along with several opportunities for the community to take part in discussions about the book, the program will culminate with a “Meet the Author” event when Moore visits on Monday, Nov. 4. Moore will also appear in conversation along with Green.  

Caswell provided a quick history of the genesis of “One Book,” which was grounded in the interest of library director Laverne Mann, and idea of libraries finding grants to fit the scope of discussions and size of the libraries themselves. The original idea of participating through an NEA grant called “The Big Read” fell through because it was suited best for large branches like those in Philadelphia. 

“Knowing Laverne was interested, I looked around to see what kind of grant funding we could get to support launching the program, and bringing in an author to visit. We have a great relationship with the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. They had launched a program called an ‘incubation grant’ to fund a starter idea that a particular organization wanted to put on. We applied with the intent of doing a community read, named it ‘One Book, One Cherry Hill,’ and received funding from the Council for Humanities,” Caswell said. 

Two years ago, “One Book” was launched and brought in author Jamie Ford, whose “Songs of Willow Frost,” recognized the growing Chinese population in Cherry Hill. As such, the program was able to feature an event series that focused on Chinese-American culture, including a Chinese-language series, and culminated with the author’s appearance. 

“We really wanted to bring the program back, and we were able to move from an incubation grant from the NJCH to what they call an ‘action grant,’ which is currently in support of programs that reach the scope of what we want going forward,” added Caswell. 

“What I’m hoping for with this program series, is to bring in scholars to talk about certain themes, like intersectionality, poverty, and also trying to highlight all the people who are doing great work in Camden.”

One Book, One Cherry Hill is also made possible through support from the Friends of the Cherry Hill Library. For more information, contact Caswell at (856) 903-1223 or online at: dcaswell@chplnj.org