Joan Bauer - 
    Hope Was Here


"You know what I like most about waitressing?  When I'm doing it, I'm not thinking that much about myself.  I'm thinking about other people.  I'm learning again and again what it takes to make a difference in other people's lives."

-- Hope Yancey, Hope Was Here

From Joan:

What is it about hope that keeps us going? I think it keeps our eyes on better days to come. When I wrote Hope Was Here, I never imagined that a whole community would read it. I admit, there were a few days--okay, months--when I wondered if I'd even finish the third draft. And yet, there I was in Saginaw, Michigan, last September surrounded by thousands of children, teenagers, and adults who had indeed read my book. How did they find it? Not the usual way. A few community volunteers knew this town needed hope after a series of tragic deaths of local teenagers. They typed "hope" into the Google search engine and found my novel. The thought of that still staggers me.

Would I come, they asked, and speak to the community who was going to be reading my book over the summer?

I'll never forget that day in Saginaw. It was the day that showed me how stories connect us. I met my oldest reader -a 93 year old- woman; I spoke to 1700 high school students gathered in their gymnasium. I met parents who had lost children in tragic accidents and were trying to keep going. I met business people who read the book in groups during their lunch hours. I met a teacher who worked with mentally handicapped young people who read the book aloud to her class and patiently explained the story so those students could take part in the event. Several months after that visit, I'm told the hope is still growing.

In Saginaw I learned something so powerful about writing. A book comes alive as people add their stories to it. The people of Saginaw layered their stories of hope onto mine and made it richer than anything I could have envisioned. They will forever be part of Hope Was Here.

One Book/One City Programs

Saginaw, Michigan chose Hope Was Here for a city-wide read during the summer and fall of 2002 to help the town heal after a series of tragic deaths of several high school students in car accidents.

  • Hope Conquers A Community by Janet Martineau, the Saginaw News
    "Hope is spreading across all of Saginaw--from beauty shops to church confirmation classes, from financial advisers to residents of a retirement home, from a juvenile detention center to a freshman class at a high school. "How many of the books have we ordered?...well, we've sort of lost count," says Mary James, one of the owners of the Children's Book Company (in town)...It's amazing how Saginaw County has taken this up. The book seems to have hit a chord with people. It's not a heavy duty self-help book but just a good story with well-drawn characters learning to cope with life..." Click here.
  • "A project featuring one book and more that 1,000 copies of it passed all around town is the winner of this year's Critic's Choice Award given to the single most significant arts/cultural event of the year..." Click here.
  • Author Joan Bauer helps students cope with loss...Click here.
  • 'Hope' Comes to Saginaw..."Author Joan Bauer can't wait to get to Saginaw and actually sink her teeth into one of the Keep Hoping sandwiches she concocted in her mind in her award-winning book, Hope Was Here"...Click here.
The Saginaw HOPE projects included:
  • building a bridge to hope in the spot where two of the teens died
  • local restaurants serving the "Keep Hoping" sandwich from the story
  • school dances kicking off the 2002-2003 school year

Hope in Portland

In May The Oregonian Junior Book Club chose Hope Was Here for their monthly selection. Here are two great articles by Christine Hunt of the Oregonian. Click here for an article about Hope and for the link to the members discussion, just click here.

Discussion Guides

Several discussion guides are available on-line for Hope Was Here:

  • For Readers: Two excellent guides (one for adults, one for youth) were written by Rev. Dr. Mark J. Molldrem of Saginaw, Michigan and used widely during the city-wide event.
  • For Teachers: Enhanced Reading Guide by Robert C. Bergstrom. Click here
  • Penguin Putnam Discussion Guide of Rules of the Road, Backwater, and Hope Was Here by Dr. Teri Lesesne. Click here

Need the recipe for the Keep Hoping Sandwich? You can find it in THIS AND THAT.

Check back to learn how other communities, school districts, and corporations are planning to use Hope Was Here to bring people together.

If you're interested in bringing Hope Was Here to your larger community, contact us at letters at

When HOPE gets released in a place, all kinds of things are possible.

copyright 2003 Joan Bauer