When it comes to bibliophilia, these aren't the glory days of Reading Rainbow (we miss you, Levar!). With attention spans shortening, libraries closing, and book publishers going broke, any chance to promote tomes lengthier than 140 characters is a step in the right direction.
Enter the Big Read, a National Endowment of the Arts program to promote reading and literature. The Center for Literature and Theater at Miami Dade College is getting in on the fun with a whole host of events inspired by the book The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Think flash mobs, Indian film screenings, and best of all, a Miami Stories Tumblr open to submissions from everyone.
The program kicked off earlier this month, and so far, they've had an Indian dance flash performance, a world music dance party, and a Wes Anderson film screening, among other stuff. Not to worry, if this is the first you're hearing about the whole shebang, there are lots of events still on the agenda.
The MDC folks chose this book for the project, because they felt the immigrant experience was highly relatable, particularly in this muggy melting pot we call home.
"We have so many different kinds of immigrant communities in Miami," says Lissette Mendez, programs director for the Center for Literature and Theatre at MDC.
"It's really great for people in Miami, if they're part of an immigrant community to see how very similar the experiences are. Even if you're not Indian and that's not your specific cultural background, your life as an immigrant growing up in two cultures could be so similar regardless of what your culture might be."
If you've got little ones (or can get a couple on loan), there's a kid's shindig on Saturday, April 5th at 1 p.m. at the Miami Children's Museum all about art, dance and Indian culture. Grown-ups who bring kids along will score a copy of The Namesake.
"The book is for adults, but it's not so much about reading the book. It's about being immersed in what book is all about," Mendez says. "Hopefully it will lead people to read not just that book but other books as well."
On Wednesday, April 9th at 8 p.m., author Suketu Mehta (who's also a journo professor at NYU), will speak at Books & Books Coral Gables about the cities Bombay and New York and their many ties.
"He's not somebody who comes to Miami very often," Mendez says. "It's a really nice way to learn about what's going on in India. There a lot of people in the U.S., in New York and Miami as well, who go back and forth. Half their life is lived in India, half here."
Finally, on Saturday, April 12th at 7 p.m., there's a screening at Koubek Center Art Cinema of the film version of the tribute book, and the first 50 folks will also get a copy of The Namesake. Basically, if you participate in any event, it's hard not to head home with a free book.
The audience participation part -- the Miami Stories Tumblr blog -- is ongoing. Anyone is welcome to send in their Miami stories, Mendez says, and they'll keep posting them indefinitely, as long as folks keep sending them. So make with the juicy narratives, already.
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You can check out all the Big Read event details and other good stuff on their website.