Literacy Council Partners for “Big Read”

East Central College, Scenic Regional Library, Washington Public Library, East Central Area Literacy Council, and several other local businesses and organizations are partnering to apply for a National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Big Read grant in January 2019.

The NEA awards about 75 Big Read grants to communities across the country each year. The objective of the Big Read is to get as many people as possible in a community reading and discussing the same book. The grants—which range between $5,000 and $15,000—provide funds for a community-wide read which includes a kick-off event, programming around the theme of the novel, and book discussion groups about the novel. The month-long event culminates with a visit by the author. The author visit would be incorporated into East Central College’s speaker series. The local Big Read event would take place in the fall of 2019. The grant would also provide funds to purchase over 1,000 paperback copies of the novel for check-out and distribution. The committee will work with local high schools and encourage them to incorporate the novel selected into their English classes’ curriculum.

The NEA provides a list of 32 books from which applicants for the grant can choose. The local Big Read committee has narrowed the list down to three titles. The three finalists for the community read are Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea, and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The partner-organizations decided to have the public make the final selection. The vote will take place during National Library Week, April 9 through 14. Individuals can pick up and submit a paper ballot at any Big Read partner location. They can also complete the ballot online by visiting https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BigRead2019.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Lydia is the favorite child and middle daughter of Marilyn and James Lee, a Chinese American couple living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue.  When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. Each family member deals with Lydia’s death in a different way but it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.  A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You explores the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovers the ways that families struggle, throughout their lives, to understand each other.

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who left the family to work in the United States. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn’t the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village—they’ve all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over. Filled with unforgettable characters and prose as radiant as the Sinaloan sun, Into the Beautiful North is the story of an irresistible young woman’s quest to find herself on both sides of the fence.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

After a devastating flu pandemic changes civilization as we know it, Kirsten Raymonde and a small troupe of actors and musicians travel between settlements, dedicated to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive.  They call themselves The Traveling Symphony. When they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence.  And as the dystopian story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.

For more information about the NEA’s Big Read grants, visit www.arts.gov/partnerships/nea-big-read

Author: ecaliteracy

Executive Director, East Central Area Literacy Council Director, East Central College Adult Education and Literacy