The Block Island Times

Island Free Library welcomes The Big Read

By Kari Curtis | Jan 21, 2014
Source: Courtesy photo

“Love Medicine” by Louise Erdrich has just been named a modern classic. It is also the book to be reading right now in anticipation of The Big Read Weekend coming up on Jan. 24 and 25 at the Island Free Library.

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts that is designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage people to read for pleasure and enlightenment. The Big Read aims to provide people with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities.

In partnership with the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum in Exeter, R.I., the Island Free Library will host a weekend of events based on the book that is described as “an eclectic range of comic and tragic voices narrating this powerful book about the enduring power of love.” In the book, the author leads the reader through the interwoven lives of generations of Kashpaws and Lamartines in North Dakota.

A relationship was sparked in 2012 with Lorén Spears, director and educator of the Tomaquag Museum, through island musician Glenda Luck while she was working on a contemporary folk project, “Manisses, A People and a Place.” Luck’s music and album were inspired by Block Island and the history of the island’s indigenous people. “Through Luck’s contact with Spears at the Museum, and events held at the Library because of it, a connection was established,” explains Kristin Baumann, Director of the Island Free Library. “Lorén Spears reached out to us to see if we would partner with the Museum in The Big Read.” With hopes for a good turn-out at the weekend long event, Baumann reminds us that all age groups can take part in this community-wide event.

“You do not have to sign up for any of the weekend events, just show up!” encouraged Baumann. “And, you don’t have to read that book, there are plenty of other books by the same author for young adults and kids, all based on Native American issues and people.”

Copies of “Love Medicine,” as well as other selections from Erdrich, are available to borrow at the library; just inquire at the front desk. All weekend events will take place at the Island Free Library.

The first Big Read event will be an Artistic Response Program on Friday, Jan. 24 at 2 p.m. Lorén Spears, a Narragansett/Niantic traditional artist, will lead an art experience in which participants will connect to the themes of family, passion, cultural identity and the ways tradition connects us. Participants will express their thoughts and ideas through collage art.

A Book Talk will be held on Friday, Jan. 24, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. led by Tomaquag Museum’s director and educator, Lorén Spears.

A Round Table discussion will be held on Saturday, Jan. 25 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Dawn Dove, Narragansett elder, oral historian, author and educator, will moderate the discussion, and panelists will include Lorén Spears and island resident Gloria Redlich. These women will share their perspectives on the themes of this book and how they connect to their communities.

To close out the weekend, a Cultural Arts Performance will be offered on Saturday, Jan. 25 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Lorén Spears will share her culture through music, dance and storytelling. She will weave into the themes from “Love Medicine” of family, community, cultural identity and traditional life in the modern world. Families are encouraged to attend this event.

Baumann would love to see more supplemental reading, getting books into people’s hands, getting high school kids to read outside of school — at home, on the ferry — in their free time.

“My goal after this Big Read Weekend is to pick another book, maybe one in the summer and another in the winter months, to read as a community,” said Baumann. “Imagine what we could do with that here?”

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