Dystopian novel on book-banning, racism selected for 2023 Flagler Reads Together

This year’s selection is ‘Our Missing Hearts,’ by Celeste Ng.

The Flagler County Public Library branch in Palm Coast. File photo
The Flagler County Public Library branch in Palm Coast. File photo
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This year’s Flagler Reads Together selection concerns a contentious topic in the nation and Flagler County: book banning.

The year's Flagler Reads Together selection is "Our Missing Hearts," by Celeste Ng. Cover image from www.penguinrandomhouse.com

Every year, the Flagler County Public Library tries to pick books that are relevant to current times and discussions for its annual March Flagler Reads Together event, Library Director Holly Albanese said. 

This year’s book, the dystopian novel "Our Missing Hearts," by Celeste Ng, hits on several important themes, Albanese said.

Some books, she said, teach about the past so people don’t repeat it. “['Our Missing Hearts'] is more of a cautionary tale of what the future could be,” Albanese said.

Ng has written two previous New York Times bestsellers: "Everything I Never Told You" and "Little Fires Everywhere," which was adapted into a series on Hulu.

"Our Missing Hearts" was published in October 2022 and follows a 12-year-old boy whose mother’s poems were deemed un-patriotic at a time when laws were written to preserve “American culture,” according to the book’s synopsis.

“Because we're talking about book challenges, racism — it’s all things that do happen in our society,” Albanese said. “And we, frankly, if we don't talk about it, it could become bigger.”

Librarian Lisa Catalano works in circulation and sees almost every book the library has. When she saw "Our Missing Hearts," she said, there was no contest for her as to what this year’s Flagler Reads Together selection should be.

“It was an obvious winner right off the bat,” Catalano said. “I think we all agreed that that was the one that we wanted to go with, just because it's so relatable.”

Catalano said that the book also speaks to how libraries and librarians play a role in freedom of information.

“And not only that, it's also a message of being brave and hopeful and having humanity as well," she said. 

In keeping with the book’s themes, the library will host a kick-off poetry reading at 1 p.m. March 4. The Flagler County Book Club will host a discussion on Ng’s book at 2:45 p.m. on March 22, then a movie matinee at 1 p.m. March 24  of the dystopian novel "The Handmaid’s Tale." 

Whether Flagler County residents choose to read "Our Missing Hearts" or a different book, Albanese said, doesn’t matter — as long as they read.

“Of course, we want to always encourage reading,” she said. “But hopefully in the month of March, those who would like to join us will read 'Our Missing Hearts.'”


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