Hope College’s NEA Big Read Lakeshore’s November programming will be headlined by an event with Nathaniel Philbrick, author of the program’s 2020 selection, “In the Heart of the Sea.”
The event will take place on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at 7 p.m. and will be hosted by Dr. Fred Johnson, associate professor of history at Hope College. Due to COVID-19, this event will be hosted virtually. More information can be found on bigreadlakeshore.com.
Nathaniel Philbrick will discuss his books, specifically “In the Heart of the Sea,” as well as his writing process, passion for “Moby Dick,” and reflections on issues of race in Nantucket and the whaling world. He will also explore the question “Where are we now in 2020?” from his perspective as a historian and author.
Philbrick was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he attended Linden Elementary School and Taylor Allderdice High School. He earned a BA in English from Brown University and an MA in American literature from Duke University, where he was a James B. Duke Fellow. He was Brown University’s first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978, the same year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, Rhode Island. After working as an editor at Sailing World magazine, he wrote and edited several books about sailing, including “The Passionate Sailor,” “Second Wind” and “Yachting: A Parody.”
In 1986, Philbrick moved to Nantucket with his wife Melissa and their two children. In 1994, he published his first book about the island’s history, “Away Off Shore,” followed in 1998 by a study of the Nantucket’s Native American legacy, “Abram’s Eyes.” He was the founding director of Nantucket’s Egan Maritime Institute and is a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association.
In 2000, Philbrick published the New York Times bestseller “In the Heart of the Sea,” which won the National Book Award for nonfiction. The book was the basis of the 2015 movie of the same title directed by Ron Howard. The book also inspired a 2001 Dateline special on NBC as well as the 2010 PBS American Experience film “Into the Deep” by Ric Burns. In 2019, the National Endowment for the Arts added the book to its ever-growing library of 32 titles in the NEA Big Read program under which libraries and non-profit organizations can apply for grants in order to develop in-depth, community-wide programming around a common book.
“In the Heart of the Sea” tells the tale of the whaleship Essex. In 1819, the Essex left Nantucket for the South Pacific with 20 crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific the ship was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The crew drifted for more than 90 days in three tiny whaleboats, succumbing to weather, hunger and disease, and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little–known documents-including a long–lost account written by the ship’s cabin boy-and penetrating details about whaling and the Nantucket community to reveal the chilling events surrounding this epic maritime disaster.
NEA Big Read Lakeshore intends on using Philbrick’s telling of this historical story to discuss sustainability, exploration and issues of race in Nantucket and the whaling world. In addition, the program will explore the complexities surrounding how we tell stories from our nation’s past and present. “We’re excited to use ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ as a springboard to discuss these important issues” said Dr. Deborah Van Duinen, director of Big Read Lakeshore and associate professor of English education at Hope College, “Philbrick’s visit to our community will undoubtedly enhance these conversations.”
Since publishing “In the Heart of the Sea,” Philbrick has published numerous New York Times-bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-nominated titles. A full list can be found at nathanielphilbrick.com.
Philbrick’s writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe. He has appeared on the Today Show, the Morning Show, Dateline, PBS’s American Experience, C-SPAN and NPR. He and his wife Melissa still live on Nantucket.
Hope College’s NEA Big Read Lakeshore program began in 2014 with the goal to create and foster a culture where reading matters. By bringing the Lakeshore community together around a common book, Big Read Lakeshore uses the shared experience of reading, discussing and exploring the themes of the book as a springboard to listen from and learn from each other.
The Big Read Lakeshore is made possible in part by a grant from the NEA Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.