Anthropologist Shares Details of Her Recent Book Project

On Tuesday, January 22, the Rochester Hills Public Library (RHPL) welcomes Dr. Marcy Hessling O’Neil to talk about her special project, Books that Bind. What began as a small community organization in the spring of 2017 has now become a project with more than 80 participants from ages 3-85.

On location in Africa O'Neil and a group of villagers gather around a table and bookselves with books

Rochester Hills Public Library welcomes Dr. Marcy Hessling O’Neil

Books that Bind is a team of community members from Benin, West Africa and Michigan State students who have come together to translate and transcribe local and famous folktales to share and read together. The issue came to their attention when they discovered that there were no children’s book available in several local languages, and they set about trying to fix that.

“What do you do when there are no children’s books in your language? You would make them, of course,” said O’Neil. “We took all sorts of iconic folktales and set to work on translating them into eight African languages that could in turn be shared again and again to both spread and preserve the stories.”

By preserving and publishing these stories in local languages, Books that Bind has given community members a chance to bond over storytelling and pass that knowledge along to others in their lives.

“At RHPL we know all too well how important it is to read aloud and share important cultural stories with children and adults alike,” said Community Relations Specialist Amanda Harrison Keighley. “Books that Bind takes that same idea and expands it into a area that was severely lacking the resources to participate in this kind of experience. We’re very excited to share their journey with our patrons.”

O’Neil will take us behind the scenes with photos, videos, and recordings of the books in 8 African languages.

The program is January 22, from 7:00-8:30 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room and is open to everyone with an RHPL library card. This program is geared toward adults but all ages are welcome. Please register in advance at

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