The famed “Sarajevo Haggadah” is the subject of the historical novel “People of the Book,” chosen by the Allegheny County Library Association as the featured title for its 11th annual “One Book, One Community” program.
The best-selling “People of the Book,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks, follows a rare Hebrew manuscript through centuries of exile and war.
Inspired by a true story, “People of the Book” traces the journey of the beautifully illustrated “Sarajevo Haggadah” created in 15th-century Spain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, a series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding — an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair — begin to unlock its deep mysteries, immersing the protagonist into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultranationalist fanatics.
“People of the Book” has been translated into 20 languages.
Rabbi Aaron Mackler, associate professor in the Duquesne University Department of Theology, will kick off this year’s “One Book, One Community” program with a lecture about Passover and the history of the haggadah at Duquesne University’s Gumberg Library, fifth floor, on March 19 at noon. The community is invited to attend.
“We are hosting a bring your own lunch [at the Mackler event], but will be serving symbolic foods that go with the seder,” said Melodie Frankovitch, public relations librarian at the Gumberg Library. “Rabbi Mackler will be talking about the Passover seder, and the history of the haggadah in general,” she said. “We will also be giving tours of the Rabbi Herman Hailperin Collection. In that collection, we have some very interesting haggadahs.”
“The One Book, One Community” concept was developed in 1998 in Seattle with the aim of building a sense of community while promoting literacy. In 2003, Allegheny County chose “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee as its first One Book. The idea is for members of a particular community to read the same book over a period of several weeks. Local public libraries typically host events to inspire conversation, including book discussions, cultural programs and guest speakers.
Allegheny County’s 2013 “One Book, One Community” will run through early June. As part of the Music for the Spirit Festival, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will hold two book discussions in April. Additionally, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Museum of Art will celebrate with three special Bound Together Book Club discussions in May and June.
Author Geraldine Brooks will be in Pittsburgh Monday, April 8, to speak at the Carnegie Music Hall as part of the Drue Heinz Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Series.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.)