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  • Sara Kruszka

Welcome to A Life of Plenty

"We all have the power to choose what is beautiful in our world."

Those words resonated within me when I heard them this morning.

Ruta Sepetys, Lisa Uhrik, and Sharon Cameron in discussion.
Ruta Sepetys, Lisa Uhrik, and Sharon Cameron in conversation.

I was sitting at Plenty Downtown Bookshop listening to a conversation between young adult historical fiction writers Ruta Sepetys and Sharon Cameron hosted by one of Plenty's founders, Lisa Uhrik. Sharon shared that insight while talking about her novels, which take place in times of adversity, and the art that features within. She writes about characters who act to change their situations, and who understand that amid uncertainty and sometimes upheaval, we still have the choice to focus on what is beautiful.

To an extent, that's why this website exists.

It started with an idea. If you've ever met Lisa Uhrik, you'll know enthusiasm radiates from her, and that enthusiasm is contagious. I approached her with the idea of doing a book review site, with readers and reviewers from the Upper Cumberland. We have a site for Nashville, but my life and my interests are here in Cookeville. This is home, not Nashville. Fortunately, Lisa understood and agreed with me.

But being Lisa, her vision was much bigger than mine. We could have a site that depicted more than just the bookshop side of Plenty, but also showed our nonprofit side. That depicted the vision Lisa, her husband Dave, and Ashley Michael had when they brought their idea to life. A bookshop that could be a gathering space in the community. Somewhere that was welcoming and accepting of all, where we could venture past the many divisions in our culture and meet in a place of thoughtful conversation. And with a love of books.

This site exists to celebrate literacy and book culture. Literacy might be an easier goal to understand, even if it's harder to reach. Raising literacy levels in the Upper Cumberland is one goal of the nonprofit side of Plenty, and while it is a lofty aspiration, it's also one that's both worthy and doable. Book culture, on the other hand, might be easier to attain, but harder to define.

So what is book culture?

What are books if not stories of human existence, fictional or not? We're all storytellers in one aspect or another, and books are one way to share these stories. And as Ruta Sepetys said this morning, "Knowledge of story facilitates human understanding." When you read a book, you often get a chance to step into someone else's shoes. You can experience something in a story that you may never go through in life. It allows you to relate to a situation, to understand, to gain empathy.

That's an aspect of book culture, at least. Growing our understanding of one another through a love of books and stories, and in doing so, choosing to focus on what is beautiful in our community.

That is the beginning of a life of plenty.


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