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One Community, One Book

One Community, One Book 2014 

The Distance Between Us: a Memoir by Reyna Grande is the 2014 selection for the One Community One Book project.

This book tells the story of the difficulties families face when they are separated by borders. Four-year-old Reyna and her two older siblings were left behind in a small, impoverished, rural town in Mexico when her mother joined her father in El Otro Lado (the Other Side). Her father had left when Reyna was only two years old and she had no memory of him. Both parents left in search of better jobs as work was scarce in their small town of Iguala, leaving the children with their paternal grandparents.

Young Reyna grappled with abandonment, uncertainty, malnutrition, and mistreatment. Her older siblings, especially her sister, were her main sources of comfort. Family changes occurred and when Reyna was nearly 10 years old, her father reluctantly took all three children across the border with him. They faced many adjustments such as learning English, avoiding deportation until they eventually got green cards and later citizenship, getting reacquainted with their father, and the feeling of not really belonging in either the U.S. or Mexico. Reyna discovered books and writing, worked hard in school, earned a college degree and later a Master of Fine Arts, and found her place in her adopted country. Read the full article in Iowa Now.

One Community, One Book 2013

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer has been selected as the 2013 book choice for One Community, One Book. Read the announcement of this year’s book choice at Iowa Now. This book tells Kamkwamba’s inspiring story of human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a land withered by drought and hunger, where hope and opportunity were hard to find. He had read about windmills and dreamed of building one that would bring electricity and water to his village, thus changing his life and the lives of those around him.

Kamkwamba_William resizedWilliam Kamkwamba was born in Dowa, Malawi, in 1987 and raised in Masitala village along the central plains. One of seven children born to sustenance farmers who grew maize and tobacco, his childhood was often interrupted by drought and hunger.

At age twelve, Kamkwamba became fascinated with electricity—a luxury enjoyed by only 2 percent of Malawi. He taught himself radio repair and began tinkering with bicycle dynamos, hoping to understand the inner workings of generators. During a devastating famine in 2001 –02, William dropped out of high school during his first semester. As thousands died across the country, he continued his education by visiting a small library near his village that was funded by the American government. After seeing windmills on the cover of an 8th-grade science book, he set out to build his own machine using scavenged parts from a scrap yard. His first windmill was made from PVC pipe, a tractor fan, an old bicycle frame, and tree branches, and powered four light bulbs and charge mobile phones. A second windmill pumped water for a family garden.


Capstone Events

Ben Nabors, filmmaker, from Group Theory Media in Brooklyn, NY, will show his film “William and the Windmill” in Iowa City as part of One Community, One Book 2013. Ben worked with William Kamkwamba for six years developing this film about William’s windmill project.  The film was the Grand Jury Award Winner for Documentary Features at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin. There will be two film screenings.

Tuesday, October 22, 7pm
101 Becker Communications Studies Building
25 So. Madison Street, UI Campus

Wednesday, October 23, 6:30pm
West High School, Little Theatre
2901 Melrose Avenue

Ben Nabors will lead a discussion after each film screening. These events are free and open to the public.


Book Discussion Forums 2013

UIHC Patients Library Thursday, October 24, noon-1:00 pm 8th Floor Solarium, John Colloton Pavilion, Elevator F University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

Iowa City Public Library Saturday, October 26, 10:30am Meeting Room E

Additional Activities

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Building Mini Wind Turbines Iowa City Public Library–Children’s Library Saturday, October 26, 1:00-2:30 pm Meeting Rooms A, B, and C

Discussion Questions

Find suggested discussion questions for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind here.



African Studies Program in International Programs, Hills Bank, Iowa City Public Library, University of Iowa Community Credit Union, UI College of Law, UI Office of Sustainability


History of One Community, One Book

Launched in 2001 by UICHR founders Dorothy Paul and Burns Weston, One Community, One Book is an annual community-wide reading project coordinated by the UICHR. The project invites community residents to discuss the same human rights-related text.

The co-coordinators of One Community, One Book are Joan Nashelsky and Pat Schnack. Please contact them with any questions or to nominate rights-related texts you feel would benefit our reading community.

Book Selections


The Latehomecomer: a Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang
Discussion questions


Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Discussion questions


Gardens of Water by Alan Drew
Discussion questions


Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year in Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver
Discussion questions


A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
Discussion questions


Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson
Discussion questions


The Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle
Discussion questions


When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Discussion questions


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Discussion questions


Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Discussion questions


First they Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung
Discussion questions


The Last Summer of Reason by Tahar Djaout
Discussion questions