The community-wide Big Read Holland Area program coordinated through Hope College and focusing on the book “Brother, I’m Dying” during November will provide historical, literary, and cultural context within multiple events including workshops, a free film showing, a children’s story time, a musical performance, and a keynote address from the author of the novel, Edwidge Danticat.
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.
The public events will begin with a TED-talk-styled kick-off celebration at Hope on Tuesday, Nov. 1, and continue through Thursday, Nov. 17, at a variety of locations in Holland, including a keynote address by Edwidge Danticat on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at Hope. After reading the book, community members are also invited to participate in any number of single-evening discussion groups taking place throughout Holland.
Admission to all of the activities is free, with exception of a cultural dinner scheduled for November 3.
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. Free books will be available to the first 100 people who request one at the main location for Herrick District Library on Saturday, Oct. 22, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. State Representative Daniela Garcia, R-Holland, will participate in the first giveaway. On Monday, Oct. 24, the Herrick Library North Branch will have a giveaway from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., and the Howard Miller Library in Zeeland will have a giveaway from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. In addition, a limited number of copies of the book will also be available at the opening event on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Written by award-winning author Edwidge Danticat and published in 2007, “Brother, I’m Dying” tells the true story of the author’s uncle and father as they work to build a future for themselves and their families—one brother in Haiti and the other in America. Told through Danticat’s singular voice, significant events set the stage for a powerful tale of loss and remembrance.
To open the month, a TED-talk styled evening on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. in the Knickerbocker Theatre in downtown Holland will feature presentations by Dr. Jonathan Hagood, “How do we know? Danticat and the Art of Historical Thinking”; Dr. Pauline Remy, “‘Kréyol,’ Folk Tales and Family Life in ‘Brother, I’m Dying’”; and Dr. Natalie Dykstra, “Two Haitian Fathers: Where Memoir Meets Biography.”
A discussion concentrating on the experience of refugees resettled in West Michigan will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 1 p.m. at Herrick District Library. The event, sponsored by the City of Holland’s Human Relations Commission, will include representatives from the refugee community, refugee resettlement agencies and community volunteers. Participants will hear about the benefits and challenges involved in refugee resettlement and integration, and how they can help welcome refugees into the community.
A Haitian Culture and Educational Dinner will take place at the Hope College Cook Dining Hall on Thursday, Nov. 3, with seating at 4:45 p.m. and 6 p.m. Haitian food will be served with a short presentation on Haitian culture to follow the dinner. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students.
Haitian music and dancing will be on vivid display during a concert by master Haitian drummer Geraud Dimanche on Friday, Nov. 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Jack H. Miller Center for the Musical Arts.
Internationally published and award-winning author Anne Sibley O’Brien will share her critically acclaimed book, “I’m New Here,” a children’s story about three students working to assimilate into their new culture, on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 11 a.m., at the Herrick District Library. Geared toward children, the event is being hosted by Ready for School. A book-signing will follow.
cultureWorks and The Big Read High School Student Advisory Team will host an afternoon of art in response to story on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 2 p.m. in the cultureWorks facility. The event will feature unique immigration stories from West Michigan young adults followed by a creative response led by a local artist.
The documentary film “La Belle Vie: The Good Life” will be shown on Monday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. at the Knickerbocker Theatre in downtown Holland. The documentary is about Haitian-American filmmaker Rachelle Salnave’s journey to discover her Haitian roots by examining the complexities of the overall political and economic dichotomy in Haiti. Salnave (director and producer) and Jean H. Marcelin (director of photography) will answer questions and discuss the film following the showing.
Sarah Yore-Van Oosterhout, a local immigration lawyer at Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates, and Dr. Aaron Van Oosterhout will discuss the current immigration system in the United States and the ways it impacts the local community. The discussion will take place in Howard Miller Library Banquet Room in Zeeland on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m.
The documentary film “Poverty, Inc.,” a feature-length film looking at charitable institutions and their role in fighting poverty, will be shown on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Knickerbocker Theatre located in downtown Holland. Haitian entrepreneur Daniel-Jean Louis will lead a discussion immediately after the film.
Rhoda Janzen, who is an associate professor of English at Hope and author of the New York Times #1 bestselling memoir “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress,” will lead a workshop for writers and readers of contemporary memoir on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 10 a.m. at Herrick District Library. Drawing on “Brother, I’m Dying,” Janzen will discuss why time management is important in current American memoir. Participants will find it helpful to read “Brother, I’m Dying” prior to the workshop and are asked bring along a favorite contemporary memoir.
During an interactive immigration workshop on Monday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m., participants will walk through the immigration and refugee resettlement process in the United States and learn how the system works, how it got that way, and how Christians are called to engage it. This event will be led at the Western Theological Seminary Chapel.
Danticat will deliver the Big Read Holland Area keynote address on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. Danticat was born in Haiti and came to the United States when she was 12. Her books include “Breath, Eyes, Memory”; the short-story collection “Krik? Krak!”; “The Farming of Bones”; and the illustrated children’s book “Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation.” Her awards include a Pushcart Prize for short fiction and an American Book Award, and she has twice been nominated for the National Book Award. Granta named her one of the 20 Best of American Novelists, her books have been selected for Oprah’s Book Club and in 2009 Danticat received a MacArthur Genius Grant. The event is also presented through the college’s Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series. A book-signing will follow.
The closing event will take place on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. at the Holland Armory. The open-house-style event will showcase hundreds of area students’ artwork created in response to “Brother, I’m Dying” as well as collaborative projects by the two Big Read Holland Area artists-in-residence, Joel Schoon-Tanis and Barry Elz. The exhibition will also be open to the public on Friday-Wednesday, Nov. 18-23, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There will be several book discussions to the public. Among the sites scheduled: JPs, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.; Van Wylen Library, Friday, Nov. 4, 1 p.m.; Biggby book discussion hosted by Hope students, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m.; cultureWorks, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 4 p.m.; post-film discussion at New Holland Brewing Company organized by Holland Young Professionals, Thursday, Nov. 10, 8:30 p.m.; Holland Museum, organized by the Alliance for Cultural and Ethnic Harmony, Friday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m.; Barnes and Noble, Saturday, Nov. 12, 1 p.m.; Lemonjello’s, organized by Hope College’s GROW organization, Monday, Nov. 14, 4 p.m.; Holland Hospital, focused on medical themes in the book, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 6 p.m.; Fellowship Reformed Church, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 6:30 p.m.; Howard Miller Library, Tuesday, Dec. 6.
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, Hamilton Community Schools, Holland Christian Schools, Holland Public Schools, Saugatuck Public Schools, West Ottawa Public Schools and Zeeland Public Schools.
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 75 non-profit organizations nationwide, and one of only two in Michigan, to receive a grant to host a “Big Read” project between September 2015 and June 2016.
The Big Read Holland Area is directed by Dr. Deborah Van Duinen, assistant professor of English education at Hope. Area partners with the college include Herrick District Library, Howard Miller Library, Western Theological Seminary, Holland Museum, cultureWorks, Future PREP’d Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, and several other area schools, churches, businesses and other community organizations.
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 through the following locations: blogs.hope.edu/thebigread, facebook.com/bigreadholland and twitter.com/bigreadholland.