The ninth annual Santa Monica Citywide Reads, a community reading program that encourages people to read and discuss the same novel in book discussions and special events held throughout the city, is taking place through March 12.

This year’s featured book is “Wench” by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.

“Wench” is the story of four slave mistresses – Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu – over the course of three summers in pre-Civil War America. Taken by their masters on holiday to Tawawa House, a summer resort in Ohio, the women encounter free blacks and whispers of the abolitionist movement and are forced to consider their lives, their positions back home, and their hopes and dreams for the future.

Author Perkins-Valdez was inspired to write the novel when she came across a footnote about Tawawa House, a real resort, while researching slave literature. The book was borne out of the author’s musings on why, when presented with the possibility of becoming free, some slaves would run, while others would choose to stay with their masters.

Citywide Reads is sponsored by the Santa Monica Public Library, with support by the Friends of the Santa Monica Public Library, the California Center for the Book, and community, educational and business partners. The program includes several facilitator-led public book discussions at various locations.

For a list of scheduled events and other information, www.santamonicacitywidereads.blogspot.com.

Participation is encouraged for those who already belong to a book club by reading “Wench” and discussing it with their group using a Citywide Reads Resource Guide, available at all Santa Monica Public Library locations and on the Citywide Reads web site at www.smpl.org/cwr.

All Citywide Reads book discussions and events are free and open to the public. Information, (310) 458-8600.

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