we contain multitudes

“We Contain Multitudes,” Sarah Henstra, 2019, Little, Brown

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MONTPELIER — “We Contain Multitudes,” Sarah Henstra’s acclaimed novel that explores themes of love, friendship, and survival through the growing the relationship between two high school boys, is the Vermont Reads book choice for 2021, Vermont Humanities has announced.

Vermont Reads is Vermont Humanities’ statewide community reading program. Since 2003, the organization has invited students, adults, and seniors across the state 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 to date.

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 shows us the deep resilience of these two boys struggling with powerful forces in their lives, while demonstrating how writing, music, and poetry can bridge wide gaps between people of diverse backgrounds and experiences,” said Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup, executive director at Vermont Humanities. “Vermont Humanities is proud to launch Vermont Reads 2021 during the month of June, known as LGBTQ+ Pride Month in countries around the world.”

Additionally, Vermont Humanities has partnered with organizations that can assist in community discussions around the book. They are Outright Vermont, The Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence’s Youth Advocacy Task Force, The Howard Center, and Recovery Vermont. Each of these organizations is prepared to offer resources and assistance. Those interested in engaging with the book through dynamic facilitated discussion can contact Vermont Humanities for more information.

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“I couldn’t put ‘We Contain Multitudes’ down because the story unfolded with so many interesting hooks and tempting calls to find out what happened next,” said Mara Iverson, director of education at Outright Vermont. “And the most important part, for me, is that it depicted a realistic queer teen relationship. We witness two people learning more about themselves and the world through their connection. It’s not a fairy tale story, but the tough and lovely realities braided together make it a powerful read.”

Kaufman Ilstrup said that Henstra will be available to participate in a limited number of Vermont Reads projects via Zoom throughout the program year. Any community organization may apply to host Vermont Reads. Vermont Humanities strongly encourages collaborations with other organizations and businesses.

The 2020 Vermont Reads choice was Angie Thomas’ debut novel, “The Hate U Give.”

Visit vtreads.org for application information.

A statewide nonprofit organization founded in 1974, Vermont Humanities seeks to engage all Vermonters in the world of ideas, foster a culture of thoughtfulness, and inspire a lifelong love of reading and learning. Learn more at www.vermonthumanities.org.


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