Reading Together Blog
...will be revealed very soon! We are excited to share with you the title that has been selected for Reading Together 2012. But you’ll have to wait just a little longer. The announcement will be made on Wednesday, September 21, so be sure to check back if you want to be one of the first to know!
We can tell you this: This year’s book is a work of fiction and the author will be coming to Kalamazoo in March, 2012.
Reading Together (RT) 2011 ended on a powerful note this week. Deogratias (Deo) Niyizonkiza, the focus of Strength in What Remains, and Dziwe Ntaba, co-founder with Deo of Village Health Works, were in Kalamazoo, thanks to our RT partner, The Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College.
Deo described the poverty of Burundi, the health care conditions, and the founding of Village Health Works, intertwined with stories of his youth and family. He spoke for about 90 minutes without a note—he was telling his story, no notes needed. I sensed most of the audience had read Tracy Kidder’s book and had attended other RT programs this year. Although most knew Deo’s story, hearing it in his own voice was even more powerful, especially when combined with the photographs of building the road to the clinic, the homes and the people in the world’s poorest country.
The following morning at a small breakfast gathering, we heard how Deo and Dziwe met in the Boston area on 9/11 and discovered both had the dream of establishing clinics in Africa. They joined forces to establish Village Health Works based on the principle “that all people are entitled to high quality health care, regardless of ability to pay.” They have completed construction of an outpatient clinic and have begun to train community health workers. Not surprisingly, much of their time while in the US is spent on community visits such as the one here and on fundraising.
Before we said good-bye, talk turned to how we might keep in touch. From the library perspective, we offered to send them excess copies of Strength in What Remains for distribution to potential donors. Deo wondered if we could do children’s storytimes by Skype for the library he hopes to build—maybe so! He asked for our business cards and said he’d be in touch! I imagine our K College colleagues had a similar conversation and will also keep in touch. And, I’m betting some of the folks in the audience for the public program will send donations.
From the earliest days of our Reading Together program, we have tried to select a book that is more than a “good read.” We have tried to select a book to bring the community together in a meaningful conversation, perhaps even make a difference somewhere in the world. I’m proud that I think we accomplished that this year and we thank our partners at the Arcus Center for bringing Deo and Dziwe to town.
And now on to Reading Together 2012. Library staff have been exchanging suggestions for next year’s book. We’d welcome your suggestions too. What would you like our community to read and discuss next winter?
In today’s post, I’d like to highlight several films that engage in one way or another with the theme of forgiveness (both of oneself and that of others). The affirmative expression of forgiveness and its role in repairing damaged lives and communities will be a central point of discourse during this year’s Reading Together programs. Each of these films and their characters either directly or sometimes in subtle ways explores the ways in which subjects negotiate the complexities of forgiveness, either on a broad social level or that of individuals in search of unburdening of some sort of psychic pain in order to reconnect (Ordinary People). Throughout these films, there is a thematic current of struggle to redeem and to mend, coursing its way through the lives of characters as they hunt for meaning in an otherwise turbulent and uncertain world. Whether it’s the death row inmate seeking forgiveness prior to his execution in Dead Man Walking or the colonial slave trader in The Mission looking to amend for his earlier crimes amongst the same community he unjustly worked to destroy, films have long probed the difficulties and possibilities involved with reconciliation. So while you’re enjoying the book discussions with your fellow community members and participating in a Reading Together program or two, don’t forget to supplement your engagement with this always timely and dynamic topic with a thought provoking film from our rich collection.
The Straight Story
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
The Royal Tenenbaum's
“Powerful story that touches your heart, mind and soul.”
“Powerful and inspiring.”
“Powerful, well written.”
“So much in it. Powerful on many levels.”
These are five reader responses to Strength in What Remains. As I read through the first couple dozen surveys, I couldn't help but notice that “powerful” was the most frequent word used to describe the book.
A powerful book has great effect. The story or the way it’s told may cause us to remember it for a long time. It may create awareness, challenge assumptions increase knowledge, or strengthen conviction. And it may prick any number of human emotions. The responses to a powerful book are as unique as we are.
What makes a book powerful to you?
We’ll be announcing the 2011 Reading Together title very soon. In the meantime, we’re looking to expand our network of community members.
Do you belong to one of these groups:
— high school students and teachers
— college and university faculty, staff, and students
— service clubs and community groups
— book clubs
If you’d like to be involved with next year’s Reading Together, send us an email.