Public Library Program | One City, Many Stories: Exploring Common Ground

A Citywide Reading Event for South Pasadena. September 14 – November 1, 2020

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | Entrance for the South Pasadena Public Library

The South Pasadena Public Library is reinventing the traditional “One City, One Story” citywide reading program concept in response to the complex times in which we are living.

Instead of focusing on a single book, One City, Many Stories (OCMS) encourages community members to engage with the theme Exploring Common Ground through four featured titles, one of the many titles on suggested reading lists created by Library staff, or a book of their choice. The goal of One City, Many Stories is to give community members an opportunity to expand their horizons through the lens of literature and thoughtful discussion.

One City, Many Stories will culminate in a special virtual Author Night on Tuesday, October 27, 2020, featuring Southern California-based authors Danzy Senna and Sherri L. Smith, and moderated by South Pasadena’s Poet Laureate Ron Koertge.

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In addition, Library staff will lead real-time virtual book discussions for the four OCMS featured titles. Senna’s New People and Smith’s The Blossom and the Firefly are two of the featured titles. Individuals and community groups and organizations will be invited to select a title from the reading lists and organize their own discussions. Readers will also be able to participate in online discussion forums moderated by Library staff.

OCMS will be hosted on Goodreads, a Web-based gathering place for readers where conversations about books and reading thrive. On the OCMS Goodreads page, participants will find the Library’s suggested reading lists and information about each title, as well as links to book group discussion guides, the Library catalog and other material of interest related to each title.

The One City, Many Stories: Exploring Common Ground reading lists are organized in three categories: “Different Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural Experiences,” “The Environment and Us,” and “Reconciling the Past with the Present.” Readers can read as many titles as they wish, and can even share their own recommendations in these categories with other readers through the Goodreads discussion forums.

Library staff are proud to present a Citywide reading program and look forward to exploring common ground through books with all the members of our community, whether you read with us, read with your group, or read on your own. One City, Many Stories will take place September 14 through November 1, 2020.

To get started visit and follow links to the OCMS Goodreads page (


Library led book discussions

Registration required:

Discussions will be held over Zoom; a device connected to the Internet is required. The link to participate will be sent to registered participants. Discussion groups are limited to 15 participants.

Tuesday, October 13 at 7:00 p.m.

March. Book Three by John Lewis

Tuesday, October 20 at 7:00 p.m.

The Blossom and the Firefly by Sherri L. Smith

Thursday, October 22 at 7:00 p.m.

The Butterfly Effect: Insects and the Making of the Modern World by Edward D. Melillo

Saturday, October 24 at 2:00 p.m.

New People by Danzy Senna

Virtual Author Night

A Conversation with Authors Danzy Senna and Sherri Smith, Moderated by Ron Koertge

Tuesday, October 27 at 7:00 p.m.

Event will be presented on a Web-based platform; a device connected to the Internet is required.

Speaker Biographies

Ron Koertge

PHOTO: Steven Lawrence | | Author Ron Koertge

Long-time South Pasadena resident Koertge was appointed by the City Council as the first South Pasadena Poet Laureate in June 2018. Author of ten acclaimed poetry collections including Dairy Cows; Life on the Edge of the Continent; Indigo; and Fever”, Koertge is also a two-time winner of the PEN Literary Award for Children’s Literature and the author of many award-winning novels. Former Poet Laureate of the United States Billy Collins once described Koertge as the “wisest, most entertaining wise guy in American poetry.”

Danzy Senna

Author Danzy Senna

Danzy Senna is the author of five critically acclaimed books of fiction and nonfiction. Her first novel, Caucasia, won the Book of the Month Award for First Fiction, the American Library Association’s Alex Award, and was named a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. Her other books include the novel, Symptomatic, the memoir, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? A Personal History, and the short story collection, You Are Free. Her latest book, New People, named one of the best books of the year by Time, Vogue and the New York Times, is a subversive and engrossing novel of race, class, and manners in contemporary America. Senna is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award and the Dos Passos Prize for Literature. She teaches creative writing at the University of Southern California.

Sherri L. Smith

Author Sherri L. Smith

Smith is the author of seven award-winning young adult novels, including the 2009 California Book Awards Gold Medalist, Flygirl, the cli-fi adventure Orleans, and Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen?, part of the New York Times bestselling Who HQ series. Her books appear on multiple state lists and have been named Amelia Bloomer and American Library Association Best Books for Young People selections. She returns to WWII with her newest novel The Blossom and the Firefly. Smith teaches in the MFA Writing program at Goddard College in Vermont. Learn more at