The Big Read

by Kate Walz

High school English students have the luxury of an entire class reading the same book and then discussing its themes, plot and characters or expressing unique opinions on the author’s work.

When graduation day comes, and students enter in the deep and dark real world, this collective discussion and unification that comes from people experiencing the highs and lows of a book together vanishes out from under their feet.

Luckily, the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library in Charlottesville and the surrounding counties participates in the Big Read annually.

The Big Read was commissioned by the National Endowment of the Arts in 2006 to reinstill literature culture and reading for pleasure across America. This has become an increasingly urgent issue in an age where the screen and multitudes of information is seconds away from the tap of a finger.

One title is selected each year, and just before flowers start blooming in March, the festivities begin. This year, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, is the featured book. Set in a small Georgia mill town in the 1930s, John Singer rents a room in the Kelly house after his fellow deaf companion, Spiros Antonapoulos, is sent away to an asylum. The amiable Singer is a confidant for four of the town’s misfits—Mick Kelly, a teenage girl who dreams of becoming a trained musician; Benedict Mady Copeland, the town’s black doctor; Jake Blount, an alcoholic socialist; and Biff Brannon, the owner of the local café.

Some events this year include group discussions of the book, art displays, presentations on deaf culture and various film pairings. Go to the Monticello’s library or the closest JMRL branch to check out Carson McCullers masterpiece for yourself.

Events begin March 1st, with at least one activity at every Jefferson Madison Regional Library branch. See a full list of events here:

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