Maryland’s Eastern Shore is Setting of One Maryland One Book Choice for 2009

The Maryland Humanities Council (MHC) today announced that the book selected for One Maryland One Book 2009 is Song Yet Sung, a novel by James McBride. Set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in the 1850s, Song Yet Sung weaves an intricate and gripping tale of escaped slaves, free blacks, and slave-catchers. The protagonist is an enslaved woman called The Dreamer, whose gift for visions of the future quickly reaches mythic proportions following her escape from a local plantation.

“I am delighted. It has to be one of the proudest moments of my career,” said McBride on hearing of the selection of Song Yet Sungas Maryland’s book for 2009. “The fact that the book was chosen by native Marylanders means all that much more. Like many Americans, I had no idea that the eastern shore of Maryland was the gateway to freedom for so many; nor did I realize the depth and complexity of relationships that existed between blacks and whites at that time, all of which were played out on in Maryland. I am happy to help illuminate the magic of Maryland’s eastern shore, and in that regard I got a lot of help—from native Marylanders, historians, and librarians who were happy to share both their resources and their proud history.”

A volunteer committee of librarians, educators, authors, journalists, and bibliophiles made the selection of Song Yet Sung in January from an original list of over 100 titles.

“Song Yet Sung offers Marylanders the opportunity to come together around the state in our communities and talk about this beautiful and important novel and the picture it paints of this chapter in Maryland history,” said Phoebe Stein Davis, MHC Executive Director. “This is not simply a story of slavery, but rather a tale of freedom, hope, redemption, and identity, with a generous dose of commentary on modern American society.”

James McBride is an award-winning author, composer, and screenwriter. He is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir, The Color of Water. McBride’s first novel, Miracle at St. Anna, was made into a 2008 film directed by Spike Lee which will be out on DVD in February 2009.

MHC will formally announce Song Yet Sung as the One Maryland One Book 2009 selection at the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Booklovers’ Breakfast fundraiser on Saturday, February 7, where McBride will be speaking along with Nikki Giovanni.

One Maryland One Book, a program of the Maryland Center for the Book at the Maryland Humanities Council, is Maryland’s first and only statewide community reading project. One Maryland One Book is designed to bring together diverse people in communities across the state through the shared experience of reading the same book and participating in book-centered discussions and other related programs at public libraries, high schools, colleges and universities, museums, bookstores, and other organizations. All related public programming will take place in September and October 2009. More information will be available in early summer about the hundreds of free public programs that will be held statewide as part of this program.

One Maryland One Book is funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, LSTA grant funds, through the Division of Library Development & Services, Maryland State Department of Education.

For more information or for organizations interested in partnering with the Maryland Humanities Council on this project, visit the website at or call (410) 685-6161.