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Civil War novel to involve Proctorville in ‘community read’

PROCTORVILLE — Quilts are the kind of handiwork that is threaded with story after story. They are tangible representations of families’ times of joy, hardship and triumphs.

It’s a quilt and its seamstress that is the focus of the book selected to play a unique role this spring in Proctorville.

That’s when Fairland High students and other community and civic groups will join in a community-wide read of “The Lost Quilter,” by Jennifer Chiaverini.

“It fit into our community because of the underground railroad connection,” Evelyn Capper, Fairland High librarian, said. “Our sophomores study the Civil War. We wanted to make sure it fit with our curriculum. And also because of our Appalachian heritage and quilting.”

The story focuses on a slave named Joanna who makes her way to freedom in the North. There she and her baby are befriended by a family.

“She is captured and taken to the South and the baby is left behind and raised by the white family who kept her,” Capper said. “She had learned to sew and that is what saves her from working in the fields.”

The State Library of Ohio awarded Fairland with a “Choose to Read Ohio” grant of about $10,000 to fund the project.

“Since there is this connection with the Underground Railroad, I thought let’s invite the entire community,” the librarian said.

Capper made calls first to Joe Jenkins of the Briggs Lawrence Library who agreed to make the novel the April selection for all the library book clubs. Ohio University Proctorville Center agreed to host a reception for Chiaverini. The Proctorville Woman’s Club will also join in the community-wide read.

Fairland students are also working on a documentary talking to village residents who live in homes that were stops on the Underground Railroad and quilting groups are invited to help students with the sewing art at the family consumer science classes at the high school.

Homeowners who would like to be part of the documentary may contact Capper.

“Whatever they are willing to share with our students, take a video of their homes, share stories of their home,” she said.

For several years Fairland High has had school-wide reads with the authors coming to speak at the school.

“We always thought it was very powerful to have a school-wide read,” Capper said. “Each morning home room is extended for 10 minutes and every classroom is quiet, literally everyone is reading the book.”

The state grant will pay for books for the students and some for the community. Funding is needed to pay to bring the author to the area for a reception. Right now there are sponsorships from Ohio University Proctorville Center, Briggs Library and Lawrence County Municipal Judge Donald Capper.

“My whole goal is to make sure our students read and to share that lifelong passion,” she said.