Top Three Titles for One Maryland One Book 2020

February 10, 2020
by Eden Etzel, Maryland Humanities

Governor Larry Hogan has declared 2020 “The Year of the Woman in Maryland,” which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave many women the right to vote. Our One Maryland One Book top three titles are all written by women authors this year. Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black, Tiffany D. Jackson’s Monday’s Not Coming, and Lisa See’s The Island of Sea Women are the three books still under consideration for this year’s theme of friendship.

The covers of our Top 3 for One Maryland One Book 2020. WASHINGTON BLACK by Esi Eduygan, MONDAY'S NOT COMING by Tiffany D. Jackson, and THE ISLAND OF SEA WOMEN by Lisa See.

Washington Black, which was named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, follows the titular character, an eleven-year-old enslaved boy named “Wash,” on a journey with his newfound master, Titch, who happens to be an abolitionist. From the plantations of Barbados to the Arctic North, through Europe to North Africa, the book shows the reader the evolution of Wash and Titch’s relationship, presenting the question:  Can their connection be called a friendship? Black was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, named a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Fiction, and an Andrew Carnegie Medal Nominee for Fiction, among other prestigious honors.

Monday’s Not Coming, a Lincoln Award Nominee, 2019 Walter Award Honor Book, and winner of the Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe Award for New Talent, is about the friendship between middle school-aged girls Claudia and Monday. The history of the girls’ friendship is told through flashbacks, so the reader feels the impact Monday’s disappearance has on Claudia. She reaches out to Monday’s family and no one will tell her where her best friend has gone. After weeks go by, Claudia knows something is really wrong and in her own investigation into Monday’s disappearance she discovers shocking truths about Monday’s life. Inspired by true events that happened in Washington, D.C. and Detroit, Monday’s Not Coming explores what happens when a child of color goes missing in the United States.

The Island of Sea Women takes place on the Korean island of Jeju, home to the haenyeo (female divers) who live in a matrifocal society, where the women are head of the household and the men take care of the home and children. The novel focuses on the long-enduring friendship between Mi-ja and Young-sook; it follows them through marriage and becoming mothers along the backdrop of the Japanese occupation, World War II, and the Korean War and its aftermath leading up to 2008, where an older Young-sook reflects on the past. Strong outside forces will push the bounds of Mi-ja and Young-sook’s decades-long friendship.

Only one of these three titles will be this year’s One Maryland One Book, although we recommend adding all of them to your to-be-read lists! Regardless of which book ends up being the book, readers will be exposed to a strong bond between characters they won’t soon forget.

Subscribe to our e-newsletter or follow us on social media to find out our final pick in March.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on our blog do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Maryland Humanities or our funders.

7 thoughts on “Top Three Titles for One Maryland One Book 2020

  1. I’m definitely happy to see that Washington Black is still in the running. It is one of the best books I read last year.

    1. We’re glad that Washington Black left such an impact on you, Debra! It certainly has received a lot or praise. We shall see what book will be the winner!

  2. I could wish that you were truly celebrating American women this year. I do understand your interest in promoting diversity through exposing Maryland high school students to other cultures, but none of the three titles that made it to the top of the list strike me as appropriate for this hugely important centennial year. Giving women the vote is the single moment in American history when significant rights were conferred upon a disenfranchised majority without armed conflict. It should loom as large as the Civil War, which led to conferring voting rights on formerly enslaved black men, but NOT on enslaved women. It’s also important for our students to understand history. Many contemporary blunders arise from a total ignorance of context. Well, I’m preaching without knowing what books were available for consideration , nor have I read any of the proposed selections. But every book does not have to be about minorities. I’ve read every Maryland book of the year since I moved to the state in 2004. Three stood out: The Boys in the Boat, King Peggy, and What the Eyes Do Not See.

    1. I think you may have (mostly) answered your own question! You are correct that a wide variety of books fitting our theme are considered each year and, yes, this year that included Suffrage (though no titles made it to the Top 10 or Top 3). Sure we want to provide a learning experience. It’s what we do here at Maryland Humanities! But the motivation behind the program is not to provide a specific lesson, rather it’s to spark conversations in communities about what can be learned from the book we select and from each other given our varying viewpoints about its themes and topics. We’re glad you’ve been reading with us over the years and hope you enjoy our pick for 2020.

  3. I vote for Lisa See. I will try to join in One Maryland One Book this year, no matter which one wins! I am currently reading last year’s book and I am sorry that I did not get to meet the author when she was in Hagerstown!

    1. That’s great to hear, Sally! We’re sorry that you missed the author tour in 2019, but hopefully you will make it to see the author this year!

  4. I’ve heard but praise for The Island of Sea Women from fellow book club members. I also am intrigued by a subject that I know virtually nothing about. Selecting this title would be charting new territory.

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