The Essay by Robin Yocum has been selected as the featured read of the One Book One Community program for 2013-14, according to the organization's executive committee.
The book's setting is southeastern Ohio where Jimmy Lee Hickam, whose upbringing leaves a lot to be desired, tries to rise above his dysfunctional family by using his writing talents and football prowess to escape his environment. When Jimmy Lee wins the school essay writing contest, there are no accolades. In fact, it creates nothing but resentment and doubt. No one believes this 17-year-old, wrong-side-of-the-tracks kid is capable of creating such a paper. When the school attempts to strip him of the award, his English teacher risks her job to stand up for him, showing him a path away from the cycle of poverty and alcoholism that has defined his family for years.
The Essay was selected among dozens of books that were nominated by members of the Alliance community, according to Pat Stone, director of Rodman Public Library, who chairs the committee.
"This is the eleventh year of One Book One Community in the Alliance area, and it doesn't get any easier to select a book with broad appeal and dovetailing the selection with the availability of the author," Stone said. "With The Essay we have a book that will have broad appeal and lead to meaningful programming and discussions; plus the author is an Ohioan."
Stone said many events are scheduled to take place in early 2014 as the Alliance Community comes together to read this book and discuss its content.
Yocum has committed to appearing in Alliance on March 20 at 7 p.m. in the Firehouse Theater. He will also be visiting area high schools the following day.
He is the president of Yocum Communications, a public relations and marketing firm in Westerville. He is well known for his work as a crime and investigative reporter with the Columbus Dispatch from 1980 to 1991 and was the recipient of 30 local, state and national journalism awards in categories ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University. The selected books for the past 10 years for the Alliance area have been The Color of Water by James McBride, Riding the Bus with My Sister by Rachel Simon, Real Time by Pnina Moed-Kass, Beyond the River by Ann Hagedorn, Plenty by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland, One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni, and Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson.
"We would not have the opportunity to bring the author to Alliance if not for the resources provided by our partners, including The Friends of Rodman Public Library, University of Mount Union, The Greater Alliance Foundation and The Review," Stone said. "We are also pleased to report that a number of teachers in area schools have committed to teaching from the book."
The Essay, as well as Yocum's other popular title Favorite Sons, are available at the University Bookstore and Rodman Public Library. The cost of each book is $12. Several copies also will be available for checkout at Rodman Public Library and the University of Mount Union Library.