Reading Together 2012 Blog
Ever since leaving your fine city and your excellent Reading Together program events, my wife and I have been talking about you. To each other. To bookstores. To other writers. We hold you up as a model to other all-city read programs. No question Kalamazoo does it right.
It's a rare and wonderful thing for an author to share his work with such a cross-section of a community as I did with Kalamazoo. To be able to meet with readers is always grand, but to be welcomed as a friend by so many, across such different platforms was an incredible experience. I know you appreciate the amazing work of your librarians and the Reading Together committee that made it all possible because you were so warm and responsive. We never ran out of things to talk about! I was only disappointed to not be able to attend ALL the events.
I was especially touched by the artwork done by the high school students and showcased in your spectacular library. I will be posting pictures of some of that work. As an artist, to inspire other artists is a dream come true. It also meant so much to me to have the support of my friend (and your own literary heroine) Bonnie Jo Campbell. A special thanks to you for inviting her to be involved with your program. That shows a great literary commitment all the way through your community.
I was especially heartened by the fact that you forged a bond with Kankakee, IL. I think the the future is being written by towns like Kankakee and Kalamazoo and I am so honored that my novel could play a part.
On a personal note, I just have to say that your librarians and staff people were spectacular. I enjoyed every minute of your company. I deeply appreciated your generosity and I have to say doing an event in front of a few hundred kindergartners was probably the coolest tour experience of the last year!
Thank you to Karen Santamaria and everyone on the Reading Together committee. Thank you for selecting my novel Into the Beautiful North, thank you for reading, and most of all, thank you for your friendship and support. Hope to see you again soon!
Luis Alberto Urrea
P.S. Oh yeah, best donuts we ever had, too!
Luis Alberto Urrea at Kalamazoo Public Library
As one who hasn't watched many classic Westerns, I didn't have set expectations about Friday’s screening of the 1960 classic The Magnificent Seven at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum’s Stryker Theater. However, from the first strains of the iconic soundtrack’s main theme, I was 100 percent on board with the story and soon, understood how the movie inspired the characters of Into the Beautiful North.
The film’s simple storyline is captivating, but add to it Yul Brynner’s unflinching gaze, stage presence and solid stature buttoned into his close-cut black denim-and-leather western wear, I understood Aunt Irma’s infatuation with “Mexico’s greatest film star.” Steve McQueen held his own with his sapphire blue eyes, confident wily smile and social-justice motivations.
For me, viewing the film after reading Into the Beautiful North added to my enjoyment of both film and novel. I recommend this PG-rated film to anyone looking for an escapist classic Western adventure, but especially to those who have read Into the Beautiful North. Check your library’s catalog for the DVD of The Magnificent Seven and invite a friend over to watch it.
~ Jim Ratliff, Librarian, Arcadia Commons Campus Kalamazoo Valley Community College
If you were not able to attend Luis Urrea’s presentation last week, you missed a wonderfully engaging evening of storytelling and music provided by Kalamazoo’s own Los Bandits de Michigan. Fear not, however. Thanks to our friends at Public Media Network, we are pleased to offer four opportunities to watch the rebroadcast of the evening on channel 95. Here is the schedule:
- Tuesday, March 13 7 pm
- Wednesday, March 14 1 pm
- Monday, March 19 9 pm
- Thursday, March 22 7 pm
Whether or not you’ve read Into the Beautiful North, you are bound to enjoy Urrea’s easy-going manner and his humorous yet poignant remarks. In fact, if you’re like many people I’ve spoken to since, chances are you’ll be inspired to check out several of his award-winning titles.
Luis Urrea in Kalamazoo
When I came to Kalamazoo twelve years ago, I knew it was a special place. We are lucky to have so many arts organizations, cultural events, and an award-winning public library that sponsors Reading Together! We are even luckier that this year’s Reading Together author, Luis Urrea, visits Kalamazoo next week.
Urrea will speak on Tuesday, March 6, at 7 pm in the Kalamazoo Central High School Auditorium. This is a free event, and all are invited to hear Urrea speak about Into the Beautiful North, writing, and being “dual culture.” Come listen to the music of local Tex-Mex band Los Bandits de Michigan and even have a book signed by the author!
You will also have a chance to meet Urrea on Wednesday, March 7 at noon in Kalamazoo College’s Light Fine Arts Building Recital Hall. Urrea will be working with a Kalamazoo College class, talking about the craft of writing, and exploring issues of crossing borders. He will also address the recent “Librotraficante” movement and the banning of his books from the Tucson, Arizona Unified School District. This event is free, open to the public, and snacks will be provided after the class.
Urrea’s visit is timely. With the controversy over prohibiting ethnic studies in Arizona (HB 2281), Urrea can give us a “banned author’s” perspective on the issue. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to interact with the author, ask questions, and explore border crossings of your own.
~Dr. Stacy Nowicki, Library Director, Kalamazoo College Library
Luis Alberto Urrea
I have been trying to keep up with Luis Urrea's public life while he is on tour promoting his new book, Queen of America. He blogs regularly on his website and shares little snippets about his travels on Facebook and Twitter. The more I read, the more excited I get for his visit to Kalamazoo in March. Did you know there will be several opportunities, including one for a Spanish-speaking audience, to see/hear Urrea in person on March 6th and 7th? You can find all the details here.
In the meantime, you might be interested to read Urrea's own words about writing Into the Beautiful North (scroll down past the description of the book). I particularly enjoy his humility, his honesty and his sense of humor, and I so look forward to witnessing them in person in just a few short weeks.
Meet Luis Urrea
Have you noticed the great lineup of Reading Together programs for this year? I’m looking forward to “Kankakee to Kalamazoo.” Since moving to Kalamazoo, I’ve been intrigued by other places with unique names beginning with “Ka.” I always thought it would be fun to plan a road trip, from one “Ka” place to the next. We could start not too far away in Kalkaska, MI, pass by Kalamazoo, visit Kankakee and end up in Kalispell, MT, right near Glacier National Park.
Imagine my surprise, then, to learn that Kankakee is a primary destination for main character Nayeli, as she road trips Into the Beautiful North. She learns a lot on her long journey, even if some things she might rather not have discovered. Often when we travel, we learn so much from the people and places we encounter along the way. One could say the same about reading a well-written novel!
This April we have the chance to discover more about Kankakee directly from its residents, without ever leaving our dear town.
Into the Beautiful North
“Suddenly there was no work. All the shrimp were shipped north, tortillas became too expensive to eat, and people started to go hungry. We told you change was bad, the old-timers croaked.
Nobody had heard of the term immigration. Migration, to them, was when the tuna and the whales cruised up the coast, or when Guacamaya parrots flew up from the south. Traditionalists voted to revoke electricity, but it was far too late for that. No woman in town would give up her refrigerator, her electric fan, or her electric iron. So the men started to go to el norte. Nobody knew what to say. Nobody knew what to do. The modern era had somehow passed Tres Camarones by, but this new storm had found a way to siphon its men away. out of their beds and into the next century, into a land far away.” —Into the Beautiful North
This passage from the opening pages of Luis Urrea's Into the Beautiful North paints a picture of a Mexican village not unlike one we might read about in today's news. And for the fictitious Tres Camarones, there is the added presence of drug bandits who are threatening to take over the village with corruption, violence and greed; also sadly true to life. This is the setting from which Nayeli, a 19-year old girl, born and raised in Tres Camarones, sets out in search of her father and other men who will come back home to repopulate and defend their village.
And for the next three months, this will become our story as well.
A dedicated group of volunteers has helped Kalamazoo Public Library plan an exciting and meaningful lineup of Reading Together events that center on three far-reaching themes: The Book as Literature, The Culture of Mexico, and Immigration. After reading the book, we believe participating in these programs will provide several ways to process and reflect.
Today we bring you the enhanced Reading Together website, complete with a full calendar of events, additional resources, and more information about those who have contributed to this planning process. We welcome your reactions and your feedback, and we invite you to come back often.
As the events for Reading Together 2012 are being finalized, so too is the Reading Together website. Be watching, after the first of the year, for a comprehensive new site filled with up-to-the-minute information, including a complete calendar of events and book discussions, suggested booklists, and additional resources. See you in 2012!
Into the Beautiful North
If so, we want to know if you plan to read and discuss Into the Beautiful North. Not only are we interested in knowing for statistical purposes, but we are also keeping an up-to-the-minute calendar for those who are in search of a discussion to join.
So regardless if your group is open to anyone or is a closed group, we’d like to hear from you. Please leave a comment here or send an email to ReadingTogether@kpl.gov so your group can be counted.
Contact Reading Together
The community steering committee for Reading Together 2012 has been hard at work planning a variety of programs and events that focus on three central themes of this year's selected title, Into the Beautiful North. Those themes are:
- The Culture of Mexico
- The Book as Literature
We are confident that the programs being planned will educate, enlighten, and enhance our understanding of issues that are relevant to the Kalamazoo community at large. We look forward to meaningful conversations made possible by our common experience of reading Urrea's touching story, told with both humor and compassion.
While the reading period unofficially begins in December, the rush on available copies of the book has already begun. More copies will soon go into circulation and you can always place a hold if a copy is not readily available. We also have audiobook and Spanish versions. And if you prefer a digital version (ebook or digital audio), available copies can be found when you log in with your library card number to the Digital Catalog and Download Center from the Library's website then enter the title into the Digital Media Search box on the right side of the screen.
Happy reading and see you at the Reading Together events in March!
Rumbo al Hermoso norte