SAN JOSE, CA – Three books about prominent individuals whose lives were changed as they learned new and unexpected things about their families have been selected as the centerpiece of Silicon Valley Reads 2019. Next year the community engagement program will focus on the theme "Finding Identity In Family History."
The three selected books are Finding Samuel Lowe by nationally-honored journalist and retired NBC executive Paula Madison, It's All Relative by best-selling author and immersion journalist A.J. Jacobs, and The Stranger In My Genes by CNBC/PBS business news anchor Bill Griffeth. All three authors will participate in multiple events in Santa Clara County as part of Silicon Valley Reads 2019.
"Each of us may find a time when we are curious about our family history – the things that influence us from our known or unknown past," said Mary Ann Dewan, Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools, who co-chairs Silicon Valley Reads with Santa Clara County Librarian Nancy Howe and City of San José Library Director Jill Bourne. "The surging interest in genealogy is helping people learn more about their ancestry and what that family heritage means to their lives. We are honored that these three authors are sharing their own stories as part of Silicon Valley Reads."
Each year Silicon Valley Reads asks everyone in the Santa Clara County to read, think, discuss and share diverse perspectives about a theme that is relevant to the region. It is presented by the Santa Clara County Library District, San José Public Library and Santa Clara County Office of Education. More than 100 free public and school events will be scheduled in February and March. A Calendar of Events of 2019 activities will be published at the end of December on the website SiliconValleyReads.org.
It's All Relative chronicles Jacobs' three-year adventure to help build the biggest family tree in history, starting with his own 80,000+ "cousins" identified in a genealogy database. As with his other bestselling books The Year of Living Biblically and Drop Dead Healthy, Jacobs uses humor and his own personal story to provide the reader with information and encouragement to explore on their own.
"I can't wait to talk to my Silicon Valley cousins about this fascinating topic," Jacobs said. "Family history effects every part of our lives -- politics, business, culture and, of course, family."
In The Stranger In My Genes, Griffeth, the co-anchor of "Nightly Business Report" produced by CNBC for U.S. public television, is shaken to the core when he discovers through a DNA test that the family tree he had spent years researching was not his own. The book follows his journey of discovery about his ancestors and how this new knowledge changes him and his family.
"Your theme could not be more timely. Since my book was released, I can't tell you how many people, both friends and strangers, have reached out to me with similar stories," said Griffeth. "Many people are suddenly asking themselves 'Who am I?' After my own DNA test, at the age of 56, I had to ask myself that very question."
Madison's book, Finding Samuel Lowe, describes growing up in Harlem and feeling that her family was somehow different from the African-American families around her. Her quest to learn more about her mother's roots in Jamaica leads to the discovery of a Chinese grandfather and eventually reconnection with 300 long-lost relatives in China.
"Blacks in the Americas have a multi-faceted history and a multi-racial genealogy," said Paula. "Many people presume that Black Americans' racial composition is solely African and Caucasian, but our racial makeup isn't always so obvious – not always so black and white. When you look at me, for example, what do you see? African-American would be the most popular guess and Jamaican-American would be second. Few people would guess Chinese! I am all of these."
Activities planned for Silicon Valley Reads will include an art exhibit at the De Anza College Euphrat Museum of Art, films, panel discussions, workshops and other special events. Books reflecting the theme "Finding Identity In Family History" are being selected for children and teens and will be announced later this fall.
For more information on Silicon Valley Reads, visit the website SiliconValleyReads.org.
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