Participate in the NEA Big Read and join the discussion on “There There” at the Library

By: Kris Springer

The St. Joe County Public Library is proud to collaborate with the South Bend Museum of Art in the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) Big Read. From 2023-2024, the SJCPL and SBMA will present a series of art exhibitions, presentations, ceremonies, performances and book discussions that highlight the multiplicity of stories, experiences and identities of the Potawatomi Communities in the Michiana region.

As part of the Big Read, we invite community members to read There There by Tommy Orange. Finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize and recipient of the 2019 PEN/Hemingway Award, Tommy Orange’s There There follows 12 characters from Native communities as they travel to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American.

The Library is holding a number of book club discussions of There There this fall as part of the NEA’s Big Read. Book clubs and conversations around books and ideas fulfill the Library’s mission to connect the members of our diverse community to information, resources, culture and each other. We hope you will read There There, visit one of our book clubs to talk about it and share in the other activities hosted by the South Bend Museum of Art and the St. Joe County Public Library.

NEA Big Read Launch Event

Friday, September 1, 5:00-8:00 p.m.
All are invited to join the NEA Big Read Launch Event at the South Bend Museum of Art where the Library will give away free copies of There There while supplies last.

Book Discussions

There There book discussions are scheduled at the Library on the following dates and venues. Registration is required.

LaSalle Branch
Thursday, September 14, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

SJCPL Online Book Club (virtual)
Monday, October 16, 8:00-8:45 p.m.

River Park Branch
Tuesday, November 14, 5:30-6:30 p.m.

The Retired Ladies Book Club connects members of the community

Book clubs are a great opportunity to meet new people, grow your community, and challenge yourself to read a title or genre you wouldn’t have before.

The Retired Ladies Book Club is a local community of women who love to read. The ladies started meeting in 2007 and have met at member’s homes and library branches before making the Robinson Community Learning Center their official meetingplace. Today, the group is led by Cheryl Barker and meets monthly to enjoy engaging discussions and each other’s company over a new book. Kris Springer, the Library’s Customer Service Manager, joined the Retired Ladies at their most recent meeting this March to learn more about the club.

The group initially focused on African American authors but has also read diverse titles and themes. Recently, the Ladies have particularly enjoyed Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton, and Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan. At their March meeting, the group discussed Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder by Valerie Burns, a cozy mystery set in New Buffalo, Michigan. The book featured recipes for baked goods, and the discussion leader baked one of the recipes to share! “There were lots of laughs and a very lively conversation,” Springer recalls. “Everyone in the group clearly loves to read and comes ready to discuss the month’s title.”

Springer asked the group what they like most about participating in a book club, and the Ladies shared:

  • They love to hear different perspectives
  • They read books that they wouldn’t pick up on their own (and are always glad they did!)
  • They enjoy meeting with people who have a shared love for books and analyzing them
  • They see people in book club they don’t necessarily see elsewhere, so it enriches their sense of community and connection
  • And finally, the book club is fun!

Cheryl Barker, leader of the Retired Ladies Book Club, appreciates that the book club compels her to read what she normally wouldn’t have read otherwise. Usually members will volunteer to lead the group once a year by ‘sponsoring’ a book either they or another member has recommended or heard positive reviews about. Ms. Barker said she and most members use the Library quite often to find books, including books in electronic formats through Libby. 

Are you interested in joining a book club? The Library offers several book clubs that are open to the community and meet on a monthly basis, including the Historical Fiction Book Club, the Green Dragon Fantasy Book Club, an Online Book Club, and a Banned Books Club, to name a few. We hope you will consider joining us sometime.

The Retired Ladies Book Club meets in the Robinson Community Learning Center nine months out of the year.

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