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Light from the open beach shines through the crooked oaks and leaning palmettos at the water's edge
Trees just above the beach
on Hunting Island
NOTE: This web page has been preserved solely as a record of the 2005 "One County, One Book" program. All local events referred to on this page are no longer active.

"One County, One Book" logo shows a bridge spanning the seal of Beaufort County

Looking Back:
The 2003 One County,
One Book Program

(Pat Conroy's
The Water is Wide

Beaufort County Public Library System began its county-wide reading program,"One County, One Book," with events in March, April and May 2003. Pat Conroy's The Water Is Wide was selected by a group of librarians and citizens as the first title in this community project.

Criteria for selecting a title included availability in paperback and film, author's other works and national reputation, themes and subject matter that make for good discussion and programming, and reading interest of the community. The committee realized the importance of the inaugural title and chose The Water Is Wide because of its locale, author's popularity both in the community and nationwide, and its potential for lively discussion and potential public programs.


The Water Is Wide
author Pat Conroy

Portrait of Pat Conroy by Joyce Ravid

Various public library locations offered discussion groups and programs in their communities, including panel discussions about the school system in the late 1960s and early 1970s and "Daufuskie Island Perspectives." Conrack, the film version of the book, has several public screenings.Author Pat Conroy spoke about his book on May 10 at the University of South Carolina Beaufort performing Art Center. The "One County, One Book" program ended with an essay contest and boat trip to Daufuskie Island (the place known as "Yamacraw" in the book) benefitting Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry.

Local bookstores, theaters, and book clubs also participated in this project. Thanks to the generous efforts of the Bay Street Trading Company and Random House, students at the Beaufort Marine Insititute got copies of The Water Is Wide on February 28, 2003, which the author later signed. Copies were provided compliments of Random House Publishers and Bay Street Trading Company. Will Balk, of the Bay Street Trading Company staff, was there to tell the young men about the book and the "One County, One Book" program. "We're extremely excited about the program and glad the library got it going," he said. "And thanks to the generosity of Random House and their area representative Kevin Haberl, we're able to share the book with those who might not otherwise have a copy." After reading the book, the students plan to take a trip to visit Daufuskie Island, where the book is set.

BMI lead teacher Shirley Perry shared Balk's enthusiasm: "Actually, (the students) are very excited about reading this book and participating in a county-wide program. ... Pat (Conroy) was my brother Nat's baseball coach, so he sometimes came by our house. He supported Nat when he was one of the first students to atend the integrated (Beaufort High School) and I've always admired him as much his writing talent."

Members of the Beaufort County Council had been presented with copies of the book the previous Monday, on which date chairman William Weston J. Newton issued a proclamation to begin the "One County, One Book" program.

Source of Beaufort Marine Institute information:
Huckaby, Lolita. "County Launches Reading Program" in Carolina Morning News (March 2, 2003; pp. 1 and 5).

Scott Strawn of the dale Branch Library  talks to the young men of the Beaufort Marine Institute
Dale branch manager Scott Strawn speaks with the students at the Beaufort Marine Institute.
  Will Balk of Bay Street Trading talks about the book and the reading program
Will Balk, from Bay Street Trading Company, shares his enthusiasm for "One County, One Book"
Students read their own paperback copies of the novel
The students get their copies of
The Water Is Wide
, as Maurice Durant
(BMI Director of Operations) looks on.
Library and Institute directors watch the presentation   Julie Zachowksi, Beaufort County Public Library System Director, and BMI Executive Director, Bill Patton.
Will Balk with Bay Street Terading Company book bag
Will Balk ...
  A roomful of atentive students from Beaufort Marine Institute
... and his attentive audience.
Three students reading
Chapter One:
"He gave me a hard stare and said, 'Son, you are a godsend.'"

BMI students
The BMI students
Photographs by Tracye Blue
About The Water is Wide
(Our 2003 Selection)

Yamacraw Island is nearly deserted. No one has paid much attention to it, nor to the few black families that live there. But this beautiful, haunting slip of land across the water from South Carolina is home to them, and they've lived off the bounty from the sea for generations.

Industrial waste, pouring into the water from which they pull their catches, threatens the only vocation they've known. Unless they can learn a new way of life, they will surely perish. Pat Conroy's The Water is Wide is the true story of a young white schoolteacher -- a man who gave a year of his life to give an island and a people renewed hope. He became the teacher to their children, and teaches the adults of Yamacraw Island extraordinary lessons they didn't even know they needed to learn.


Image of the Beaufort County Council proclamation declaring the months of March, April and May 2003 as One County, One Book Months

Read the 2003
"One County, One Book"
County Council chairman
Wm. Weston J. Newton


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