Monday, January 5, 2009

The Big Read 2009

This year's Big Read selection is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Chicago picked To Kill a Mockingbird as its first One City/One Book selection a few years ago and I re-read it then. But I just may re-read it again. I've always liked it. And I'd like to support the Big Read.

Modeled on successful "city read" programs, The Big Read is designed to encourage literary reading by helping communities come together to read and discuss a single book. Participants for 2008-09 will include more than 200 cities and towns across the United States.

In St. Louis the principal sponsor is Washington University. There will be multiple activities beginning January 6:

Events begin Jan. 6 with a reading and discussion at the Missouri History Museum, which will feature St. Louis television personalities Christine Buck (CW11) and Summer Knowles (Fox 2), along with local actors. On Jan. 8 Missouri's first black congressman, William "Bill" Clay, Sr., will discuss his new book, The Jefferson Bank Confrontation: The Struggle for Civil Rights in St. Louis, at the St. Louis County Library, Florissant Valley Branch.

Edison Theatre and Metro Theatre Company will present a theatrical production of To Kill a Mockingbird Jan. 9 to 18. The opening night celebration will include an appearance by Mary Badham, who was nominated for a best-supporting actress Academy Award for her role as Scout in the 1962 film version. Badham also will host a trio of film screenings Jan. 10 and 11, at the St. Louis Public Library, Schlafly Branch; the Missouri History Museum; and the University City Public Library.

The Human Race Machine, which allows viewers to envision themselves as a different race, will be installed in the university's Mallinckrodt Student Center Jan. 11-18. Subsequent events will include the Black Repertory Theater of St. Louis' performance of Stamping, Shouting and Singing Home at the Missouri History Museum (Jan. 18); the Bias and Bigotry Film Festival, presented by the Anti-Defamation League of League of St. Louis and Cinema St. Louis (Jan. 18-22); and To Kill a Mockingbird Through Art, a family-friendly interactive event exploring racial and social justice issues through the arts, sponsored by Cultural Festivals of St. Louis (Jan. 31).

Individual discussion groups will meet at numerous branches of the St. Louis Public Libraries as well as at local bookstores, cafes and community centers.

Here is the full Calendar of Events.

As I said, I've always loved this novel. I like its depiction of small town life. I like its depiction of the inter-relationships between neighbors. I like its depiction of the relationship between father and children - both the good father and the bad father. I like what it says about education. I like what it says about imagination. I think it says important things about our system of law enforcement and justice in this country and it says many important things about race relations in this country.

It looks as if most of the Big Read discussions about this novel are going to focus on the racial issues in the novel. As I said, it says a lot of important things about race. But I'd like to see it discussed in its entirety. I think they shortchange this novel by focusing on only one aspect.