Sunday, February 22, 2004

Selection panel praises book's strong characters, focus on freedom

By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

What members of the On the Same Page book selection panel had to say about Crossing the River:

• Patsy Carruthers, director of learning services, Channel 48:

"I became absorbed in the characters, thinking about the search for identity and for freedom that I felt really touched upon themes we should be considering as we examine our history and near the opening of the Freedom Center. The multigenerational aspect of Crossing the River appealed to me as well - following the threads of the story over time.

"As a former high school English teacher and someone who continues to work closely with the K-12 educational community, I also wanted a selection that would engage those mature juniors and seniors who participate in On the Same Page either through the classroom or on their own.

"This selection will do that through its challenging issues, fine storytelling and strong characterization."

• Mitchel D. Livingston, vice president for student affairs and services, University of Cincinnati:

"Crossing the River gives voice to three African children who were sold to a white slave trader by their desperate father, and whose experiences alter the reader's consciousness about the legacy of slavery.

"It takes readers on a journey to the 'far bank of the river,' and enables them to bear witness to 'sinking hopeful roots into difficult soil.' This book is especially important for Cincinnati given this year's opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the stories it will tell about other children of the African diaspora."

• Albert Pyle, director, Mercantile Library:

"We chose Caryl Phillips because he's an extremely intelligent writer and Crossing the River because it is an unexpected take on the African experience in America. I've also spent an evening with Caryl Phillips and he's cool. ..."

• Susanne Wells, reference librarian, Green Township branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County:

"The challenge to the selection committee was to find a book that has freedom as its central theme, that is enjoyable to read, and that has as its author someone who would be eager to come to Cincinnati and discuss their work.

"We feel that Crossing the River meets all of those criteria. The fact that it meshes with the much-anticipated opening of the Freedom Center in a few months just makes it all the more exciting as a selection for community-wide discussion.

"Author Caryl Phillips deftly weaves together several stories that depict the long-ranging societal impact of the African diaspora. Through the voices of his characters, Phillips brings to life the human consequences of historical events over the course of nearly 300 years."

History from his perspective
Selection panel praises book's strong characters, focus on freedom

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