Hope College receives grant to fund third The Big Read in Holland, Erin Dietzer reports for The Holland Sentinel.
For the third year in the row, Hope College has received a $16,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help fund The Big Read, a community-wide fall reading program.
Approximately 3,000 Holland-area residents participated in the 2014 reading Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and approximately 7,000 participated in last fall’s read of Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” This year’s read, which is scheduled for the first three weeks in November, will be Edwidge Danticat’s 2007 memoir, “Brother, I’m Dying.” The Big Read will begin on Tuesday, Nov. 1, and conclude with an address by Danticat on Thursday, Nov. 17.
“The goal of The Big Read Holland Area is to create and foster a culture in our community where reading matters and where the power of story brings about change in the lives of individuals and in the life of our Holland area community,” said Deborah Van Duinen, an assistant professor of education at Hope College who is the grant’s administrator. “We’ve seen change happen in the past two years of our programming and we’re looking forward to the conversations this year’s book will bring.”
“Brother, I’m Dying” focuses on Danticat’s uncle and father as they build a future for themselves and their families: her uncle Joseph in Haiti and her father in America. Danticat’s parents immigrated to the United States when she was 2-years-old. She lived with her uncle’s family in Haiti until she was 12, and joined her parents in the United States. At the beginning of the book, Danticat learns over the course of a single day that her father is dying and that she is pregnant with her first child. Just weeks later, her beloved uncle seeks asylum in the United States and experiences brutal treatment.
“Brother, I’m Dying” received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Book discussions over the course of The Big Read will focus on the book’s themes of family relations, Haitian culture, immigration to the United States and international aid.
“It seems fitting for our community to read a story about an immigrant to the United States,” Van Duinen said. “After all, Holland is an immigrant town, a town named after another country, a town with both past and current immigrants.”
The program this fall will feature several main events and book discussions hosted by a variety of community organizations, including Herrick District Library in Holland, Howard Miller Library in Zeeland, the Holland Museum, the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District Western Theological Seminary and Cultureworks. OAISD director Jason Pasatta is coordinating a high school teacher program to help facilitate an exhibition of student learning that will be presented in conjunction with this year’s Big Read Holland Area. In previous years, 900 middle school and high school students were involved.
Further details about The Big Read events will be available this fall.