Vermont Reads 2021

“We Contain Multitudes”
by Sarah Henstra

Suggested Activities

​There are many ways to approach We Contain Multitudes as you explore activities to enrich your community experience. They range from book discussions and letter writing projects to art, craft, and music projects. There are multitudes of possibilities, and we encourage creativity in finding ways to enhance understanding through exploration. We are happy to share ideas and help in any way.

We urge you to share your events by submitting them via our online form so we can help spread the word!

Book Discussions

Ideally, a discussion group should be facilitated by a person who is comfortable leading conversations in which everyone feels encouraged to participate. Facilitators might be teachers, librarians, or others who are skilled and enthusiastic about leading a discussion. See the Vermont Reads 2021 discussion guide for suggested questions and tips for a successful book discussion.

Note: In 2020, Vermont Humanities funded discussion facilitators for Vermont Reads:The Hate U Give as the book provokes challenging conversations about racism and implicit bias. We provided trained facilitators to lead specific discussions on reading and racism.

For Vermont Reads 2021, we will continue to offer trained facilitators for discussions about domestic violence, bullying, substance use, and mental health—all of which play a large part in We Contain Multitudes.

Host a Guest Speaker or Panel Conversation

Our partner organizations, Outright Vermont, Recovery Vermont, The Howard Center, and the Vermont Network against Domestic and Sexual Violence can come to your community to lead conversations, provide resources, and answer questions about the themes of the book.  Possible speaker or panel discussion topics include:

  • LGBTQ+ youth and resilience
  • Building college aspirations for marginalized youth
  • Healthy relationship skills for teens and adults
  • Writing or poetry workshops
  • Bullying prevention
  • Supporting youth, adults, and families dealing with substance use disorder
  • Supporting veterans returning from war
  • Services for survivors of domestic violence

Please contact Tess Taylor by email or Richelle Franzoni by email for more information.

Host a Movie Night

There are many movies that may provide context and complement the themes of We Contain Multitudes. Here are some links to good lists of movies featuring LGBTQ+ youth, but this is not comprehensive and there are always new movies coming out!  We recommend previewing all films before sharing with your group.

What are our favorite LGBTQ+ youth-friendly films?

We’re also happy to make recommendations for excellent films that are geared more towards adult audiences like Moonlight, Milk, and Brokeback Mountain. Call us for more recommendations.

Writing, Art, and Craft Projects

  • Writing Projects: community members can read and write about the poetry of Walt Whitman, the music of Prince, or other LGBTQ+ writers and poets, or writers and musicians who have experienced addiction. You could also start your own Pen Pal projects!
  • Posters and artwork: participants can create posters and art about LGBTQ+ Pride, or any other theme in the book. Arrange for exhibit space at your local library, school, museum, or coffee shop to show participants’ artwork. During the months of June, September, October, and November, you are likely to find various LGBTQ Pride events that you can hook into in or near your community. Go to Pride Center of Vermont for more information on Stonewall Commemorations (June), Vermont Pride Month (September), National Coming Out Day/Spirit Day (October) or the Transgender Day of Remembrance (November).
  • Music: Music is a very important theme throughout this book. Engage with the music and influences of Prince, as well as bluegrass music and its impact on American music. Invite a musician or a band to your community. We even know a Vermont-based Prince Tribute Band!
  • Quilt making: Draw pictures or create quilt squares that represent people or situations that celebrate communities that are often marginalized or considered different because of their race, religion, LGBTQ identity, gender identity or expression, economic situation, or other characteristics.  Look to the National AIDS Memorial Quilt for inspiration.
  • Displays, exhibits, videos, or presentations: Examine how clothing choices are important in the story for stating one’s identity. Have participants create a display, video, or presentation about how what they wear tells who they are, and if that changes depending on the group they’re in (code-switching). Have participants design their own outfits!
  • Find more ideas in this article on Reflecting Resiliency

Read-a-Thon

​Advertise a day or evening read-a-thon, where participants take turns reading letters from We Contain Multitudes aloud. Everyone who wishes to participate should have the opportunity to read. This is a unique way for people of all ages and backgrounds to share the reading experience.

Writing Contest

​Writing contests are a popular means for younger readers and writers to approach the written word. In the spirit of We Contain Multitudes, contestants can be encouraged to write letters to each other, as Kurl and Jo were assigned to do so by their English teacher. Entries can be assembled in printed form or online, and winning selections can be read at a special event. If you choose to run a contest, we suggest offering prizes in different age or grade categories. (Be sure to let us know about the contest so we can help advertise it.)

Displays

Libraries, bookstores, schools: create a prominent display of Vermont Reads: We Contain Multitudes books and other related titles at the public library, school library, or local bookstore along with helpful information from associated organizations.  These can also be connected to the various Pride Month events.

Culminating Celebrations

Communities often choose to conclude their Vermont Reads activities with a celebratory event co-hosted with other collaborating organizations. Organize a show that documents your activities with drawings and posters, storytelling and a movie or presentation. These final events are useful for showcasing student work done as part of the Vermont Reads project, recognizing contest winners, or hosting a panel discussion or presentation. Consider singing or playing songs from Prince and/or bluegrass musicians during the event! Or if you want to go big, bring the Prince tribute band to your town’s community center or teen center!