Leadoff speaker Fred Johnson

The community-wide Big Read Holland Area program coordinated through Hope College and focusing on the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” during November will include lectures providing history and perspective, two free film showings, a musical performance, art workshops and multiple opportunities to join small-group discussions of the classic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

The program, developed around the theme “An entire community reading one book together,” is funded through a grant to the college through the Big Read initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with Arts Midwest.  Herrick District Library is the primary area partner with Hope, with others including the Holland Museum, and several area schools, churches, businesses and other community organizations.

The public events, intended for all ages from teen through adult, will begin with a kick-off celebration and lecture at Hope on Monday, Nov. 3, and continue through Friday, Nov. 21, at a variety of locations in Holland.  After reading the book, community members are also invited to take part in any number of single-evening discussion groups, offered in either English or Spanish, taking place throughout Holland between Nov. 3 and Nov. 19.

Admission to all of the activities is free, and copies of the book are available at no cost while supplies last to those who do not have access to the novel in other ways.

Written by Harper Lee and published in 1960, “To Kill a Mockingbird” explores racism and social justice in the fictional community of Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s as attorney Atticus Finch defends an African American man falsely accused of raping a young white woman.  The novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, has sold more than 30 million copies and has been translated into dozens of languages.  It was adapted to film in 1962.

To open the month, Dr. Fred Johnson, associate professor of history at the college, will deliver the address “Bathing in the Sunshine of Despair” on Monday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall at Hope.  The lecture will examine the historical reality that was the foundation and setting for “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Mary Marshall Tucker will present “Maycomb: My Perspective from across the Fence” on Thursday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. in Wichers Auditorium of Nykerk Hall of Music at Hope.  Tucker, who is a retired educator, a Monroeville, Alabama, resident and a friend of Harper Lee, will discuss what life was like for a young African American girl growing up in Alabama during the Jim Crow era.

The 1962 film adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” starring Gregory Peck will be shown on Tuesday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. at the college’s Knickerbocker Theatre, with a post-discussion event at Hops at 84 East immediately following the showing of the film.

The recent documentary “Our Mockingbird” will be shown on Saturday, Nov. 15, at 2 p.m. at the Hazel Hayes Auditorium of Herrick District Library.  The film follows two Birmingham, Alabama, high schools, one primarily black and one primarily white, as they collaborate to produce the play “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  Skype discussion with film director Sandra Jaffe will follow the screening.

“Mockingbird Music” will be presented on Sunday, Nov. 16, at 3 p.m. at Third Reformed Church by members of the college’s department of music and will feature music that would have been heard in Alabama in the 1930s—on the radio, on front porches, and in churches, prisons and schools.  Through the songs, paired with readings from the novel, the event will explore differences of race, class and religion that divide communities and bonds that unite, both in the book’s era and now.

Dr. Wayne Flynt, professor emeritus of history at Auburn University and a friend of Harper Lee, will present “Harper Lee, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ and Their Enduring Messages” on Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. at the Hazel Hayes Auditorium of Herrick District Library.  He will discuss race and class issues as related to literature and history.

The month’s activities will culminate in an open house on Friday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. at the Holland Museum.  During the event, artist Joel Schoon-Tanis and area high school students will present art that they created in response to reading the novel.

Several book discussions are open to the public.  The sites, dates and times include Centennial Park Studios (Nov. 4, 7-9 p.m.); Hope Church (Nov. 5, 7-9 p.m.), Barnes and Noble (Nov. 8, 4-5:30 p.m.), Ambrose (Nov. 9, 11-12:30 p.m.), Our Brewing Company (Nov. 9, 5-6:30 p.m.), Coppercraft Distillery (Nov. 10, 7-8:30 p.m.), Holland Christian High School (Nov. 13, 6-7 p.m.), Center for Women in Transition (Nov. 14, 7-9 p.m.), Latin Americans United for Progress (Nov. 15, 10 a.m.-noon) and the Department of Spanish at Hope (Nov. 19, 4-5 p.m.).  Herrick District Library will host an online discussion on its Goodreads page (bit.ly/HDLgoodreads) from Monday, Nov. 3, through Sunday, Nov. 23.  The discussions at Holland Christian High School, Latin Americans United for Progress and through the Department of Spanish at Hope will be in Spanish.

In addition to the events and discussions open to the general public, several area schools are participating by having students read the book, as are other community groups that have organized their own discussions.  The participating schools, provided with copies of books through the grant, include Black River Public School, Calvary Baptist School, Hamilton Community Schools, Holland Christian Schools, Holland Public Schools, West Ottawa Public Schools and Zeeland Public Schools.  Hope is also hosting a book discussion for faculty and students.

While supplies last, free copies of “To Kill a Mockingbird are available to community members in English through either the Department of Education at Hope (Van Zoeren Hall, 10th Street between Central Avenues) or Herrick District Library (300 S. River Ave.), and in Spanish through Latin Americans United for Progress (Midtown Center, 96 W. 15th St., #101).  The novel is also available as an e-book through the library.

The Big Read initiative is designed to revitalize the role of reading in American culture by exposing citizens to great works of literature and encouraging them to read for pleasure.  Hope is one of only 77 non-profit organizations nationwide, and one of only two in Michigan, to receive a grant to host a “Big Read” project between September 2014 and June 2015.

More information about the Big Read Holland Area events and the book, including a complete schedule with street addresses and a list of all partner organizations, is available online at blogs.hope.edu/TheBigRead.