OCEANSIDE — The Oceanside Public Library was awarded its second $17,000 Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The grant funds community programs to engage readers with a selected novel and themes around that book.
“It’s a program to put reading back in the center of American life and culture,” said Monica Chapa-Domercq, principal librarian. “Communitywide reads further that goal.”
This year’s selection is “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston. It is a hopeful narrative about a women’s journey to independence during the Harlem Renaissance. “This book is transformative,” Chapa-Domercq said. “It gives you hope and inspiration.”
Plans are being made for this year’s Big Read events that will begin in February. So far, partnerships are planed with KSDS 88.3 jazz radio, the Oceanside Historical Society and the Oceanside Museum of Art. In addition to book discussions, literature and music from the Harlem Renaissance will be explored as well as spoken word performances inspired from the book.
A community meeting will be held in late September to brainstorm additional local connections and events around the book.
“The community really helps define the program and personalize it to Oceanside,” Chapa-Domercq said. “Our community’s last Big Read experience was so positive and exciting we can’t wait to reveal the innovative and creative programs that Zora Neale Hurston inspires.”
Last year’s book selection “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien is a short story collection of soldiers’ accounts from the Vietnam War.
The book gained a strong response from veterans in the community.
“The response was really powerful,” Chapa-Domercq said. “It got the library realizing services the veterans are interested in.”
Two highlights of last year’s Big Read program were a veterans fair and stage performance of the book by The American Place Theatre group.
The performance generated an emotional response from veterans in the audience.
“One man literally stood up and cried,” Chapa-Domercq said. “He said he felt no one could understand his feeling of being at war and the performance captured that.”
Last year the National Endowment for the Arts issued 400 Big Read grants. This year only 76 grants were awarded.
The grant is available to libraries and museums, community groups and nonprofit organizations that partner with libraries.