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Literary Beacon: North Carolina Reads 2023

Let the Rowan-Cabarrus Library help you navigate the world of books. Want to read the latest thought-provoking non-fiction book? How about a light-hearted fiction book? Either way, the Library has you covered.

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North Carolina Reads is North Carolina Humanities’ statewide book club for 2023. North Carolina Reads features five books that explore issues of racial, social, and gender equality and the history and culture of North Carolina. All five books pose critical questions about how North Carolinians view their role in helping to form a more just and inclusive society.


The Library no longer has free copies of NCReads booksYou can still read the titles by checking them out at the Library or through Overdrive

How to Participate - 2023

The Library at Rowan-Cabarrus has received a grant to provide five copies of each of the five chosen books and will participate in this state-wide celebration through readings, events, and contests to win copies of the books. 

How to Participate:

1. Get a copy of the books! 

  • Win a copy of the books from the Rowan-Cabarrus Library. More information is in the box for each title on this page.

  • Check out a copy of the books from the Rowan-Cabarrus Library. We have at least one copy of each of the books either in print or eBook through our Dogwood Digital Library.

  • Check out a book from the local public libraries.

  • Buy a copy from a local book store or from an online retailer. 

2. Read! Check out the reading schedule and discussion questions to guide your reading and to prepare for the events. 

3. Participate in the discussion events hosted by the NC Humanities and the Rowan-Cabarrus Library. 

All the events are free, but you will need to register using the link in the Events section of this page. 

Laura Silva

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Laura Silva

February - Carolina Built

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Carolina TextTo sign up for the virtual book discussion on Carolina Built, please click here. The discussion will be held Thursday, March 30 at noon via Zoom and participants will receive their Zoom links through email. 


Carolina Built by Kianna Alexander

Historical Fiction. A story based on Josephine N. Leary, a real-life American entrepreneur who was emancipated in 1865. Leary is determined to build a life of her own and a future for her family. When she moves to Edenton, North Carolina, from the plantation where she was born, she is free, newly married, and ready to follow her dreams.

Discussion Questions

After Josephine Leary was emancipated in 1865, she began her life as a newlywed in Edenton, North Carolina and quickly focused on building her and her family’s legacy. Why is the idea of creating a legacy, especially one based on financial security and independence, important to Josephine?

How does the novel explore the intersection of race and social class, specifically in terms of Josephine and Sweety purchasing land, building a house, and opening a business?

What is the importance of exploring the themes of family and motherhood in the book? What parenting practices of Josephine’s might have set her apart from other mothers of her time?

Josephine delivers a presentation on social roles of the modern woman at the Edenton Ladies Auxiliary meeting. What are the reactions of the meeting attendees to Josephine’s presentation, and how do those reactions highlight the differences in expectations for women in the 1860s?

The author details the development of a friendship between Josephine and Rosa. What do you think about their relationship?

Throughout the book, Josephine and Sweety experience several instances of racism and injustice. What do you think about Josephine’s reactions to these situations?

After reading this book, did you come away with a greater understanding of what this particular time and place in history was like through Josephine’s experiences as imagined in the novel?

What lessons can you apply from Josephine’s experiences to your own life?

March - Game Changers

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Game Changers: Dean Smith, Charlie Scott, and the Era that Transformed a Southern College Town by Art Chansky

Non-Fiction. Drawn together by college basketball in a time of momentous change, Dean Smith and Charlie Scott helped transform a university, a community, and the racial landscape of sports in the South.

Register for the Free Book Club Discussion Event: On March 27 at 6:30 PM, online, join NC Humanities for an interactive panel discussion examining themes from the North Carolina Reads selection Game Changers. This panel will explore how Dean Smith and Charlie Scott transformed a university, a community, and the racial landscape of the sports in the South. This event features author Art Chansky and Dr. Matt Andrews in a conversation moderated by NC Humanities Board Trustee Brian Kahn.

Discussion Questions

In what ways did Dean Smith’s and Charlie Scott’s experiences before they arrived at UNC Chapel Hill shape and influence their respective lives?

In Chapter Two “The Truth About Chapel Hill” the author notes that, “The University of North Carolina’s reputation as a progressive institution originated in many places and was closely linked to Chapel Hill’s standing as a liberal college town.” To what extent was this an accurate/inaccurate perception in the 1950s and 1960s?

How did Dean Smith and Charlie Scott overcome personal and professional challenges they faced both on and off the court?

What were Dean Smith’s and Charlie Scott’s individual and collective achievements during their time together at UNC Chapel Hill? After? What do you think was the most significant achievement and why?

In what ways were UNC Chapel Hill, the town of Chapel Hill, and collegiate athletics transformed by Dean Smith and Charlie Scott?

April – Money Rock

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Money Rock: A Family’s Story of Cocaine, Race, and Ambition in the New South by Pam Kelley

Non-Fiction. The story of Belton Lamont Platt, nicknamed Money Rock, and of a striving African American family, swept up and transformed by the 1980s cocaine epidemic. This gripping tale, populated with characters both big-hearted and flawed, shows how social forces and public policies—racism, segregation, the War on Drugs, mass incarceration—help shape individual destinies.

The Library no longer has free copies of this title.

Discussion Questions

Describe Belton Lamont Platt’s early life and adolesence growing up in Charlotte. How were Belton’s experiences similar to and different from his mother, Carrie’s, experieces? How were they different to his own children’s experiences growing up in Charlotte a generation later?

What historical factors, practices, and policies influenced Charlotte’s economic and social development since the Civil War? How did these factors shape the city of Charlotte and its residents’ lives?

What were the implications of cocaine culture and the sale of cocaine on the United States, and on North Carolina, from the drug’s introduction in the early 20th century through the 1990s?

How did Belton’s experiences in the state and federal prison system change his life?

What are the larger social and economic implications of the criminal court system and mass incarceration? Consider Belton’s trial and sentencing with “Maximum Bob” and Judge Shirley Fulton’s courtroom experiences from Chapter 14 “Sentencing a Generation”.

What is the intersection between affordable housing and economic mobility?

May - Under a Gilded Moon

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Under a Gilded Moon by Joy Jordan-Lake

Historical Fiction. Kerry MacGregor’s future is derailed when, after two years in college in New York City, family obligations call her home to the beautiful Appalachians. As Kerry finds herself caught in a war between wealth and poverty, innocence and corruption, she must navigate not only her own pride and desperation to survive but also the temptations of fortune and the men who control it.

Register for the Free Book Club Discussion Event: On May 23 at 6:30 PM, online, join NC Humanities for an interactive panel discussion examining themes from the North Carolina Reads selection Under a Gilded Moon. This panel will explore themes of wealth, poverty, corruption, and family obligations during the Gilded Age. This event features author Joy Jordan-Lake and Dr. Jennifer Le Zotte in a conversation moderated by NC Humanities Board Trustee Mike Wakeford.

Discussion Questions

What cultural elements are often associated with Appalachia and Western North Carolina? How are these cultural elements viewed by various characters throughout the book?

As evidenced in the book, how was the economy transformed in the decades following the Civil War? Consider impacts of railroad construction, labor practices, tourism, etc.

Compare and contrast the lives of the various characters in the book. How are their experiences illustrative of the economic inequality characteristic of the Gilded Age?

What are some examples of cultural debates higlighted in the book? How did these cultural debates reinforce and/or challenge the social order?

What were the various reactions to immigration and immigrants in the novel?

How were women’s roles changing during the Gilded Age?

June - Step It Up and Go

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Step It Up and Go by David Menconi

Non-Fiction. This book is a love letter to the artists, scenes, and sounds defining North Carolina’s extraordinary contributions to American popular music. Menconi shows how working-class roots and rebellion tie North Carolina’s Piedmont blues, jazz, and bluegrass to beach music, rock, hip-hop, and more.

Register for the Free Book Club Discussion Event: On June 27 at 6:30 PM, online, join NC Humanities for an interactive panel discussion examining themes from the North Carolina Reads selection Step It Up and Go. This panel will explore how working-class roots and rebellion tie blues, jazz, and bluegrass to beach music, hip-hop, and a celebration of North Carolina popular music. This event features author David Menconi and founder of Ramseur independent label and North Carolina Music Hall of Fame Trustee Dolphus Ramseur in a conversation moderated by NC Humanities’ Board Trustee Elizabeth Carlson.

Discussion Questions

North Carolina has a national reputation as a musical state. What are the various kinds of music you can find throughout the state? Is there a particular style of music or musician you associate with North Carolina?

What factors contributed to the development of so many different styles and genres of music in North Carolina?

How does North Carolina music reflect cultural and social influences over time?

What kinds of contributions did artists in North Carolina make in their musical careers?

Why do some songs and artists remain relevant and popular across generations?

What is your favorite North Carolina music genre, artist, or song?

Disclaimer & Grant

Please note that selected books are intended for readers 18 and over and may not be suitable for some audiences.

North Carolina Reads is made possible in part by “A More Perfect Union”, a special initiative grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.