The Big Read is a National Endowment for the Arts program developed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture. Participating organizations or agencies choose a book to read as a community and host related programs and events.
“What I love about The Big Read is that it really brings awareness to books and to the joy of reading and what can be gained if a community all reads the same book,” said Kate Whitman, the center’s vice president of public programs.
Said library spokeswoman Kelly Robinson Vann, “We always hope that it will bring more people to reading and, of course, into libraries. We think any opportunity and excitement built around reading and authors is always a plus.”
This year, the center selected “Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea as its featured book. It is a story about a young Mexican woman who journeys north to bring back some of the men who have left her home village for life in the U.S.
“It was important for me to [choose a book that is] relevant to people today and had an author that was living,” Whitman said. “This book in particular … has some connection to the American-Mexican border, and that’s something that we’re reading about in the paper that people have strong opinions about.”
In 2009, Atlantans read “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The program was held twice in 2010 — featuring “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston and “Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe” — before taking a hiatus until this year.
Whitman said this year’s book is also fitting, because participants will be reading and discussing the novel during National Hispanic Heritage Month, which takes place Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Books chosen for younger readers participating in The Little Read also have Hispanic ties. Preschoolers and elementary-schoolers are encouraged to read along to “I Love Saturdays y Domingos” by Alma Flor Ada, and middle-schoolers are invited to read “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan.
The center and the library will host free community events throughout the month, including author talks, book chats and a children’s storytime session. The program will launch Sept. 3 with A Taste of Mexico kickoff party from 6 to 8 p.m. at the center.
“People can come [and] get information about the program,” Whitman said. “We’ll be giving a few copies of the book out [and] we’ll be giving out bookmarks, but then we also wanted to celebrate the subject matter of the book. So we’ll have a mariachi band coming to perform and traditional dancers who will be performing with them. We’ll have food and drinks of Mexico. It’ll really just be a fun night.”
Events will conclude Oct. 5 with a film festival at the center from noon to 5 p.m. The selected films — “The Magnificent Seven” and “Under the Same Moon” — are connected to the storyline and subject matter of “Into the Beautiful North.”
INFORMATION: Register to participate in The Big Read or receive further information, updates and program details by calling (404) 814-4000, emailing BigRead@AtlantaHistoryCenter.com or visiting AtlantaHistoryCenter.com/BigRead.