Recently I read the One Maryland One Book for 2015, The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. After a slightly slow start, I couldn’t put it down.
One Maryland One Book (OMOB) is a program of the Maryland Humanities Council, designed to encourage people to read and discuss the same book. I ‘ve read all of them except the first. I will list them near the end of this blog.
As the cover of The Boys in the Boat states, it’s about “Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.” This is interesting, but it’s about so much more.
These nine Americans are young college students, mostly poor working-class-boys living in the state of Washington during the depression. They stunned the world by beating the best of the world’s rowing teams.
At the beginning of the book, Brown went into the impact of the depression on the northwest and growing unrest around the world. This did help me understand what the boys and the universities were going through at that time. We also see what is happening in Germany, as Adolph Hitler arms his nation, gains control of the press and tries to wipe the Jewish population off the face of the earth.
Brown takes us through the boy’s live before and during the four years at the University of Washington. He also helps us get to know their coaches and the boat builder. all dedicated to doing their best.
He moves us back and forth between these people and events, from the boys freshman year to their victory, and a little beyond. He explores the adversity, determination, friendship, and developing trust of the boys that gradually leads to their working so well together that they could defeat the wealthier schools in the East and England, and eventually Hitler’s special team and boat.
Hitler planned to use the Olympics to portray Germany as a civilized, modern state. This illusion would give him more time to prepare his military and squelch rumors of what was really happening in his country.
This victory was a beacon of hope during the depression and Brown gives us plenty of detail to help us understand the training and dedication that led up to this event and what this victory meant to America.
Throughout the state there are many discussions and programs planned around this book at various libraries, high schools, colleges, museums, bookstores, and community and senior centers.
Brown also will be at the Baltimore Book Festival on Sunday, September 27 from 2:30 to 3:30 pm at the Literary Salon.
For more information about Brown or the book, check out http://www.mdhc.org/programs/one-maryland-one-book/ and the OMOB Facebook page.
OMOB 2009: Song Yet Sung by James McBride
OMOB 2010: Outcasts United by Warren St. John
OMOB 2011: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
OMOB 2012: The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
OMOB 2013: King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village