The Free Library of Philadelphia and the mayor’s office announced Thursday that they have selected a book of poetry — The Tradition by Jericho Brown — as the annual One Book, One Philadelphia selection, a first for the program.
The book won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for poetry and explores themes of fatherhood, Blackness, queerness, and trauma.
“We are excited to bring Philadelphians together with poetry for the first time in One Book’s history,” Free Library Interim Director Leslie M. Walker said in a statement.
In The Tradition, Brown, 44, of Shreveport, La., encourages readers to consider how racialized violence, from mass shootings to police killings, affects their daily lives, program organizers said. The work also offers new ways of thinking about healing and wellness.
“This collection examines themes that touch the lives of Philadelphians every day, and meets the moment in examining who we are and what we should expect from each other,” Walker said. It’s the program’s 19th selection.
Starting April 14, One Book will partner with local organizations, educators, and artists for virtual events exploring the book and its themes, including an author talk with Brown and Philadelphia poet laureate Trapeta B. Mayson. Other events include panel discussions, antiracism workshops, and wellness sessions. The schedule is listed at freelibrary.org/onebook.
Brown has two previous collections of poetry: Please (2008), which won the American Book Award, and The New Testament (2014), which won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. He is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Creative Writing and director of the creative writing program at Emory University in Atlanta. He has an MFA from the University of New Orleans and a Ph.D. from the University of Houston.
One Book will distribute copies of The Tradition to middle and high school students in the School District of Philadelphia. All Free Library locations will have hard copies of the book, and digital copies will be available on freelibrary.org.