Sarah Henstra, the author of the Young Adult novel “We Contain Multitudes,” will visit Vermont from April 12-15 for a series of free events, including two in-person public talks in Essex Junction and Middlebury and a virtual discussion with a panel of Vermont high school students.
“We Contain Multitudes” was chosen in 2021 by Vermont Humanities for its one-book statewide reading program, Vermont Reads. The program brings students and adults across the state together to read the same book and participate in a wide variety of community activities related to the book’s themes. Over 200 different Vermont towns, cities, and villages have participated in Vermont Reads since its founding in 2003.
On Wednesday, April 13 at 10:30 am, Henstra will join a panel of Vermont high school students on Zoom for a statewide discussion about “We Contain Multitudes,” produced especially for Vermont middle and high school students. Teachers and school librarians can sign up for their classes to attend this free event at: https://bit.ly/henstra-schools-413. The event is produced jointly by Vermont Humanities, the Vermont Department of Libraries, the Vermont School Library Association, the Vermont Library Association, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Partnerships for Literacy and Learning.
Later that same day, Henstra will visit the Essex Junction Senior Center to offer a free, in-person public lecture at 7:00 pm about “We Contain Multitudes” and letter writing. She’ll give a similar talk on Thursday, April 14 at 7:00 pm at the Dana Auditorium on the Middlebury College campus. That free talk is also open to the public and is hosted by the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury. Learn more about these two events at www.vermonthumanities.org/first-wednesdays.
A novel in letters, “We Contain Multitudes” tells the paired stories of two very different teenage boys who are initially reluctant to participate in a pen-pal assignment from their high school English teacher, but ultimately grow well beyond the boundaries of the school project to share earth-shattering revelations about themselves and their families.
“The novel contains many strands relevant to current community conversations including economic disparities, how veterans return from war, domestic violence, opioid addiction, bullying, and coming out,” says Vermont Humanities Executive Director Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup. ”But it is also a beautiful story of friendship, poetry, coming of age, and aspiring to move beyond social expectations.”
Henstra is a professor of English at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, and the author of two previous novels, “Mad Miss Mimic” and “The Red Word,” which won the Governor General’s Literary Award in Canada. Henstra said she was inspired to write “We Contain Multitudes” by her own teenage kids, and how they communicate with each other and their friends, especially around complicated issues.
Vermont Humanities has partnered with three Vermont organizations to help communities navigate the themes of the book. Vermont Reads project hosts can receive one free presentation from any one of these organizations.
Vermont Humanities will announce its Vermont Reads 2022 choice on April 30 at the Vermont Book Awards, which will be held at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier.