The book selected for Schenectady’s sixth annual One County, One Book program has a connection to the Capital Region.
The book is “My Name Is Mary Sutter” and is the debut novel of author Robin Oliveira, a Loudonville native.
The piece of historical fiction centers around Mary, who is a midwife in Albany during the Civil War. To fulfill her dream of becoming a surgeon, the young woman runs away to Washington, D.C., to treat wounded war soldiers. In an attempt to overcome prejudices of the time concerning women in the medical profession, she meets two male mentors while in the city and refuses to return home.
Oliveira plans to visit the Capital Region for several days in April to promote the book during the program.
Karen Bradley, coordinator of the One County, One Book program, said this year’s selection was chosen differently than previous years.
Usually, the Schenectady County Public Library asks the community to nominate books to be considered for the honor. The library committee then selects a book based on the suggestions.
However, the library had planned on skipping a year because of renovations taking place to the building. But dozens of calls came in for the library to host a talk by Oliveira after she was a guest on WAMC radio over the summer.
She agreed to speak at a library event in July, after which more calls came in nominating the book as this year’s selection. The committee agreed, and Oliveira said she would be happy to return to participate in the program.
“We didn’t want to skip a year and lose the momentum that’s been building within the community,” Bradley said.
This year’s program will feature a Civil War theme and will coincide with the 150th anniversary of the war. The program will also help celebrate Women’s History Month in March.
All of the movies shown during March’s Reel Films series at the library will be set during the war.
Several lectures are planned, including one to discuss the book, women in the Civil War and medicine during the era.
A reading will also take place in March called “Civil War Voices.” Diaries, journals and poems of the time will be read by local community leaders and high school students. Letters from the war that were found in the attic of a Schenectady home will also be read.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to learn what was going on here during the Civil War,” said Bradley. She said when most people think of war in the Capital Region they think of the American Revolution.
Community members are being encouraged to form book groups to discuss the novel. Groups that contact the library will then be entered to win lunch with the author. Only one group will win.
This is the second year of the contest. Jamie Ford, the author of last year’s selection, “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” also came to Schenectady and had lunch with winning readers after his discussion. Groups must register by April 1.
“It’s always a great part of the program if we can get the author,” said Bradley. “We won’t always be able to do that.” In 2007, critically acclaimed author Jodi Picoult visited Schenectady when her novel, “My Sister’s Keeper,” was selected as the featured book.
Oliveira’s book is available now at the library. About 200 copies of the book selection are bought each year by the library for the event. More are purchased, depending on reservations, and paid for through the Friends of the Library.
Book kits are also available for groups and schools. Many of the county’s high school students will be reading the book in class and Oliveira will visit them before her talk at the Schenectady Community College auditorium on April 9.
“Our goal is always to host a program that appeals to men, women, and people of all ages,” said Bradley. “We think this year’s program has something for a wide variety of the community.”