Jennifer Meixelsperger recently took a journey “Into the Beautiful North” and hopes members of the public want to join her.
As the public programs librarian for the Kenosha Public Library system, Meixelsperger was part of the team writing a National Endowment for the Arts grant to bring The Big Read back to Kenosha.
They worked off a list of books provided by The Big Read organization, “crossing off the books we’ve already done,” she said, “and looking through the rest, looking for themes that resonate with our community.”
They eventually selected “Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea.
The author was born in Tijuana, Mexico, and grew up in San Diego, the son of a Mexican father and an American mother. His story — and his novel — are tied into the current debate about immigration.
“This book was selected before the issue blew up like it has,” Meixelsperger said.
The novel takes place in a small town of Tres Camarones, Mexico, where a group of teenagers realizes that all of the men in their town have left and traveled to Los Yuniates, in search of work and income. When some drug lord bandidos arrive and threaten the village, a screening of the Yul Brynner classic film “The Magnificent Seven” inspires Nayeli and her friends to travel north as well — to cross the border into the United States and bring back their own Siete Magníficos to help restore their home back to its former glory.
While their journey plays out, the teens encounter many unforgettable characters and have all kinds of new experiences, while still longing to return back to their home and heart, Tres Camarones.
“It’s a journey story with teens on their first big adventure after high school,” Meixelsperger said. She said the story is “pretty comedic and has a playful sense of the world. It’s a good read.”
The book is suitable for teens and adults, she added, “and we can all relate to its themes of community, working together and strong women characters. It contains a lot of issues that are in popular YA novels.”
The Big Read, she said, “is exciting. You get the community all reading the same story, which can open people up to reading something they may not have picked up on their own. Literature is so vast; how do you know what you’ll like before you read it?”