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A Sense of Belonging

I have a confession: I don’t have a hometown. I was born somewhere, am an alumna of various schools, have places I made friends and memories, but I’m currently living at my twelfth real address. Home is some muddled combination of where my family is, where my scheduled activities are, and where my bookshelf is. This lifestyle has some drawbacks, including the development of a geographically-ambiguous accent. So when a friend of a friend published This Is Where You Belong, I was intrigued.

This is Where You Belong jacket

The title does sound like some sort of BuzzFeed quiz, where you answer questions about yourself and some formula spits out your ideal city. (The author jokes about just these sorts of pseudo-scientific surveys.) Actually, the book is talking about the author’s struggle with her own case of itchy feet, forcing herself to fall in love with the city she already lived in. She provides her own story as well as research on place-making and a chapter by chapter checklist “Love Your City Challenge.”

The first chapter is about getting to know your city better by spending time on your feet (or at least self-propelled). Some cities are inherently more walkable and, according to her theories, consequently more inherently loveable. One of the concepts she uses is the idea of a “walkability score,” which rates addresses and neighborhoods by how easily one could walk to various resources and amenities. (My workplace at CLP Squirrel Hill has a score of 92 on a 100 point scale. My parents’ house, in a lovely rural development with no sidewalks, scores a 3.) But even in not-very-walkable places, she posits, walkers inspire parks and foot paths and local businesses and feelings of community.

So here’s my challenge to you. Figure out a walking path to your closest public library. Come visit us. See what you find on the way – a park you had never noticed, a new business that just opened, a tree with leaves just starting to turn. Discover things about your neighborhood – and your library – you never knew were there. Claim that route, and that library, for your own.

Bonnie works at the Squirrel Hill branch. She’s a confused Pirates fan, an overly ambitious quilter, and firm believer in fairies. She wants to read too many books.

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