Somerville Reads is a project that promotes literacy and community by encouraging people all over the City to read and discuss books on the same theme. For our third annual program, the subject is food—local, sustainable, delicious!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Things *We* Carry

Somerville Reads committee member Jodi had an interesting idea: why not get people to talk about the items they carry around? Sure, we're not in a war zone (although it can seem like it when you're in Boston rush-hour traffic), but we all have distinctive assortments of items we carry around for reasons that may range from the practical to the irrational. So, Jodi asked people to come by Sherman Market, weigh what they have on their person and talk about it. Two friends of Jodi's, Anna and Meg, thought this sounded like an interesting project and graciously agreed to help.

Meg diligently took notes on all the participant interviews.

Full disclosure: I (Kevin, a library staff member) came with my shoulder bag, which usually has books (3.01 pounds or thereabouts) my passport (only piece of ID with my full name on it--besides, if I decide to leave the country on a whim, I'd rather not stop by my apartment) and pen and tiny notebook (I'm often jotting things down).

Here's what other people had to say who came to Sherman Market on Sunday April 11, to talk about their day-t0-day gear.

Here Andrea puts her whole bag down on the scale. Total weight: 8.6 lbs.

In her bag she had a sketchbook diary ("In case I'm ever moved to draw," she said), chapstick, books, cell phone and a flashlight (which she said came in handy quite recently).

And here Andrea proudly shows off her Somerville Reads button:

One man who asked to go unidentified showed us a police baton that he always carries with him. He found it on a street in Roxbury two weeks after being mugged. It weighs 0.8 lbs:

Anna's bag weighed 3.18 pounds:

The biggest surprise inside? "I carry corks around, in case I want to practice juggling:"

Jodi herself got in on the act. Her hemp bag weighed 2.61 lbs. Of the items inside, her journal was the clear favorite:

"I write down lists and appointments and phone numbers and people to send postcards to and sometimes I write personal stuff in it but then I obscure it with colorful designs. This particular notebook has been to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylavnia, New York, Massachusetts, and back and forth across the country with me twice."

One participant always keeps this key chain with her:

She said, "This keychain says LOVE on it. A friend got it for me when I was in middle school. She got it in the New Dehli airport and she bought it because it reminded her of me."

A woman who asked not to be identified put a binder she had with her on the scale and found out it weighed 9.77 lbs. She said, "I'm a therapist and these are client files and paper work -- all the information about the lives, children they have... They're heavy, emotionally and physically. I think it's good to revisit why I'm acutally holding on to these things right now. I'm carrying fifty people's hearts and souls and pains and grief. "

And lastly, someone decided to weigh a person he carries around with him:

This young man weighs 26.3 lbs. Derrick, his father, said, "26 pounds is a lot to carry, especially when you're moving around a lot."

The Things We Carry made for a really fun and fascinating afternoon.

A special thanks to Sherman Market owners and staff for letting us use the space!

Sherman Cafe Discussion Group

SPL would like to thank everyone who came to Sherman Cafe last Thursday night to discuss The Things They Carried. We had a lively, thoughtful discussion.

We would also like to thank Sherman Cafe and their staff for hosting the event.

Recap of Saturday's discussion group

Saturday's book discussion group was a tremendous success. Thank you to all the special folks who joined us and shared your thoughts on The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien, and the Vietnam War. We had a lot of different perspectives represented, from Veterans to war protesters, which made for a very meaningful discussion. A huge thank you to Michael Downing as well, our discussion moderator, who created a respectful and thought-provoking atmosphere for our thoughts to be shared. Enjoy the pictures from the afternoon, below.

Michael Downing, our moderator

While I have you here, next up is an all-day Vietnam film festival, happening at the Central Library this Saturday, April 24, from 9:30-4:45. We will screen 3 films, Good Morning Vietnam, The Quiet American, and Born on the 4th of July. We hope to see you there!