One Maryland One Book Program Explores Friendship

Local libraries host virtual author visits 

By Jillian Amodio 

Imagine a giant book club, and the whole state is invited to the discussion. Thirteen years ago, Maryland Humanities launched One Maryland One Book (OMOB), a program that strives to unite diverse communities throughout the state through a shared reading experience.  

Every year, Maryland Humanities purchases thousands of copies of the selected book for local schools and county libraries. Copies of this book are at the library and you can download a free e-book version via the online catalog, COSMOS. 

An annual search seeks out a book selection that will coincide with the year’s theme. It is chosen using public insight, as well as guidance from educators and institutions. The OMOB theme for 2020 is Friendship.  

“This year we were looking for something a little more upbeat. Many of our past books have been related to challenging circumstances and we wanted something that was readable, discussable, and engaging for a variety of ages,” says Andrea Lewis, senior program officer.  

Last year’s selection, in accordance with the theme of Water was What the Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hanna-Attisha, a dramatic story of the Flint, Michigan water crisis.  

After much deliberation, the committee selected Lisa See’s The Island of Sea Women for this year’s read, which dovetails with Gov. Larry Hogan’s designation of 2020 as The Year of the Woman in Maryland, and is perhaps a nod to first lady Yumi Hogan’s South Korean birthplace. 

See is a New York Times bestselling author, born in Paris and raised in Los Angeles. Her books often shed light on the immigrant experience and the intense bonds that develop between women. The Island of Sea Women tells the stories of female divers residing on a remote Korean island, and the bonds and friendships formed by this unique group of women. The book’s plot focuses on two girls from very different backgrounds, as they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective. “Mi-ja and Young-sook develop the closest of bonds. Nevertheless, their differences are impossible to ignore. This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a unique and unforgettable culture, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children,” reads the Maryland Humanities description. 

Beyond reading this year’s selection, OMOB encourages Marylanders to continue their journey of exploration, whether it be attending a virtual discussion or continuing on the path of discovery with an extensive list of related books, podcasts, movie recommendations, and events like documentary screenings and sea creature origami. Readers can hear from author Lisa See in a series of virtual library tours:

Over 20,000 Marylanders partake annually in OMOB events. “This year, we find ourselves in a world that looks very different than it has at any time in recent history. It has been a time of terrible loss for so many. What this loss has wrought is a coming together that is burgeoning and brings us hope, as we push towards a brighter future,” writes board chair Cynthia Raposo, with Aaron Heinsman, acting executive director. “Literature encourages us to reflect, brings us joy, pushes us to know ourselves better, and offers a window into the lives of those near and far.” 

More information about the book, events and further resources can be found at