San Luis Obispo County libraries hosted a series of programs as part of their countywide Book of the Year literary event, as a partnership with Cuesta College and Cal Poly Student Diversity & Belonging.

“It’s our mission to connect our community to creativity, culture and knowledge and we’re doing that through stories,” Erica Thatcher, a coordinating librarian from the County of San Luis Obispo Public Libraries said. “Connecting readers to timely books and current issues can help bring a community together.”

This year’s Book of the Year is Tommy Orange’s “There There,” a novel following characters from Native American communities traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow.

“I think we were not only excited about Tommy’s novel, but we were also interested in hearing about his story: his grass roots work, his connection to California and his voice as a Native American,” Thatcher said. “His book is inspiring important discussions.”

Orange’s “There There” is an award winning novel, claiming a New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year title and the winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, an honor that recognizes an American author who has not previously published a full-length book of fiction. Individual copies and book club kits of “There There” were available to check out through county libraries.

Throughout March and April, county libraries invited readers to participate in book discussions, land acknowledgement programs with local Chumash and Tatavium elder Alan Salazer and virtual California State Park tours of the Sue-meg Yurok village and Kashtayit State Marine Conservation Area.

“All of the programs will examine both the past treatment of California Indian tribes, in addition to looking at what comtemporary indigenous Californian life is like,” Margaret Kensinger-Klopfer, a Coordinating Librarian from the County of San Luis Obispo Public Libraries said. “We want to acknowledge that California has a complicated and painful past when it comes to its treatment of the first Californians, but also has vibrant and active contemporary indigenous communities.”

The Book of the Year’s main event featured an author lecture and book signing with Orange.

“We will continue to bring programming that is engaging, thought-provoking, inclusive and collaborative,” Kensinger-Klopfer said.