For the fourth consecutive year the Cumberland County Public Library and Information Center is rallying the folks of Cumberland County for a month long celebration of reading, history and community with The Big Read. There will be book clubs, readings, exhibits, performances and more — and all centered around The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.
“The big read was created about fi ve years ago by the National Endowment for the Arts to encourage literary activity and to get Americans reading classics again,” said Marketing & Communications Division Manager Kellie Tomita, and also noted that the library system has written a grant for the previous four years that has funded part of The Big Read throughout the community. “This year we selected The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers because of her local ties to Fayetteville and because she is a southern writer,” she added.
McCullers fi nished writing the novel while she lived in Cool Springs Tavern in downtown Fayetteville. She was born in Columbus, Ga., and wanted to be a classical musician growing up. Because she was sickly, McCullers gave that up to become a writer. She married a man who was leaving the military at Ft. Benning and they moved to Fayetteville where he worked in the credit industry. They were here a short time while she fi nished writing the novel and then they moved to New York.
The program kicks off at 4th Friday on March 26 with a special event at Headquarters Library. Violinist Laurel Wachtler and Cellist Zack May will perform from 7-9 p.m.
“We’ll kick it off with the classical music that was either mentioned by one of the characters in the book or was one of Carson McCullers favorite compositions,” said Tomita. “That should be really interesting. We will also be giving away some novels, too.”
This family-friendly, free and month -ong event has more than 60 activities planned that reach every age group. “One of the really positive things about the big read is that it brings the community together,” said Tomita. “The whole aim of The Big Read is even if you are not one to sit down and read an entire book, you can still be exposed to the literature and part of American history through other parts of this program.”
Book club kits are available for check out at any of the Cumberland County Libraries. Each kit includes a bag, 10 copies of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, bookmarks, a readers guide and a schedule of events for The Big Read. The kits are designed to make it easy to put together a book club of your own, whether it is at work, church or in your neighborhood.
Because the book is set in a small town in Georgia in the 1930s, there is plenty of opportunity to explore the depression era in the south, and several of The Big Read events do just that.
“One thing I would really recommend is going to the Museum of the Cape Fear to see the exhibit that they are going to put together. It is called Connecting to Carson McCullers,” said Tomita. “They went to Columbus, Ga., and got artifcts and personal effects of hers. It will also look at the history of the south during the depression era — that will be one of the highlights.” The exhibit will also include a presentation called Segregation: Life Experiences on March 27. The focus will be growing up in “Jim Crow North Carolina.”
A master gardener will explain how to start your own vegatable garden in a presentation called “Depression-era Kitchen Gardens” that will take place several times through out the month and at various library locations. Tomita pointed out that this is a particularly timely topic with people trying to save money and eat more fresh, healthy foods these days.
Other events include a walking tour of downtown Fayetteville with local historian Bruce Dawes on April 18. It is about 3-miles long and will include businesses and buildings of the 1930s that McCullers may have visited while living here in 1938 and 1939.
On April 19, there will be a tour of Cool Springs Tavern where part of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter was penned, with a librarian-led book discussion to follow.
Ft. Bragg is involved in The Big Read as well. Throckmorton Library is hosting a month long display called Fort Bragg: The Depression Years. It opens on March 26. On Wed. March 31, the Cliffdale Regional Branch is hosting a presentation on Fort Bragg and the Army, circa 1930s. It starts at 7 p.m. Throckmorton Library on Ft. Bragg is hosting a presentation on Evans Metropolitan Church on April 14 where the audience will learn about this sanctuary of hope on Cool Springs St. Teens and kids events include a trash fashion show, a 1930s soiree, depression era game and afternoon tea.
The Cape Fear Regional Theatre has staged another Carson McCullers’ classic The Member of the Wedding, which will give the audience a view of the lifestyle and the environment that permeated small southern towns during that time period.
“It is exciting to see the community come together — we have all walks of life involved in this. Everyone from gardeners to our county commissioner, they are all on board for this,” said Tomita. “It is something the community can rally around and focus on — one book, one topic. You may not be interested so much in reading specifi cally, but you might be interested in history so we have programs about the history of Fayetteville and Hope Mills. There are so many different aspects to literature that we hope to get everyone involved.”
Visit www.cumberlandlib.nc.us for a complete list of activities and opportunities. The Web site will be updated throughout the month so if you have any questions about The Big Read or events associated with it, McKnight recommends that you check there fi rst or call any of the local library branches.