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A second chapter of a Kenosha-wide book club is unfolding next spring.
The Kenosha Public Library has earned a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to host “The Big Read,” a communitywide effort to read and discuss the same book, in March 2012.
“When we realized the success of the first ‘Big Read’ (in 2010) we wanted to apply for another one,” Kris Neiman, head of Administrative Services for the Kenosha Public Library, said. “We were not able to apply for 2011, but we did get in for next year.”
Kenosha’s first “Big Read” saw thousands of residents dig into John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” in March 2010. Next year’s read will focus south of the border with “Sun, Stone and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories.”
Neiman said the collection of short stories spans various authors, genres, settings and dates from Mexican authors.
The collection is shorter than “The Grapes of Wrath,” and Neiman said the topics and themes running through these stories are relevant.
“We thought introducing a different cultural experience to the community ... was important,” Neiman said. “A large portion of the community is of Mexican or Spanish descent, and we thought this would promote that cross-culture dialogue and would enlighten the community on the strengths and history of Mexican authors.”
At least 850 free copies of the book will be distributed in the weeks heading up to the event’s kickoff. Discussion guides and Spanish editions of the book also will be available during that time.
About 150 copies of “My Life with the Wave,” a children’s version of the first story in “Sun, Stone and Shadows,” will also be available.
Kenosha County residents are encouraged to read the book in advance of March 3, the first scheduled program of “The Big Read,” when Jorge Hernandez, editor of “Sun, Stone and Shadows,” will discuss the collection of stories.
Events and book readings will run through the remainder of March before the “Grande Fiesta” closing celebration at the Boys and Girls Club of Kenosha on March 31.
Neiman said the Kenosha Public Library is hoping to expand on the number of community partners it works with and also will work together with the Community Library System to provide programming in the county and staff assistance.
Carthage College and the University of Wisconsin-Parkside will also host events. Discussions of the book will be spread over the community and will focus on both specific stories and the collection as a whole.
The Kenosha Public Library applied for a $17,000 grant and received $14,500 from the National Endowment of the Arts. Despite the reduced grant, Neiman said she was impressed that Kenosha was one of only 75 locations approved for a 2012 grant.
“It shows the quality of the grant application we provided,” Neiman said. “I’m proud of the reference staff for coming up with unique partnerships and programs.”
Neiman said the library will work with the Friends of the Library and the Kenosha Public Library Foundation to provide additional funding and materials. Volunteers are also welcomed to assist with events.
Neiman said she hopes this volume of the “Big Read” is well-received.
“We’re hoping everyone remembers the sense of being a part of something big,” Neiman said. “You can have something in common with the people around you and talk about the same topic.
“There’s a sense of community, being together as one, and the joy of literature and how it can bring people together.”
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