Where can people of all ages come together to read the same book, discuss its contents, participate in related activities and even hear it read over the radio?
Here, of course.
Hood River County Reads is kicking off its 2015 season on March 15 with a special event at the Hood River Library beginning at 2 p.m.; related kickoffs will be held at the Parkdale and Cascade Locks libraries on March 17 beginning at 5 p.m.
Hood River County Reads is a community-wide program for readers of all ages, with titles chosen to represent the cultural diversity of the valley. It began in 2006, with local author Virginia Euwer Wolff‘s novel “Bat 6,” about the Japanese experience after World War II, and has run every year since — with the exception of 2011, when the library was closed due to budget cuts.
This year, there are two books: “Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea, and “Becoming Naomi León” by Pam Munoz Ryan. Helen James, Hood River County Reads Chair, with committee members Mole Schaefer, Pat Schmuck, Gale Arnold, Jean Harmon, Elizabeth Garbor, Fran Finney and Assistant Library Director Rachel Fox, chose books that are a “good read for a wide range of the community,” said James. “It has to be accessible, fun to read, and tell us something about who we are.”
Both books are available in English and Spanish. James said 1,000 books were purchased for the program: 500 copies of “Into the Beautiful North” in English, with another 175 in Spanish; 325 copies of “Becoming Naomi León” for classroom sets at the elementary and middle schools to read in class; and 20 copies of Urrea’s other works (fiction, nonfiction and poetry), which are now available for checkout.
While “Becoming Naomi León” is taught to the younger grades, “Into the Beautiful North” will be taught at the high school level. Both share the common themes of borders, growing up, searching for a hero and family.
According to a press release, “’Into the Beautiful North’ is the story of 19-year-old Nayeli, who lives in a remote Mexican village and dreams of her father, who left years ago to find work in the United States. Most of the men in her village have left to go north, which makes the village an easy target for a group of drug-dealing banditos. After watching the movie ‘The Magnificent Seven,’ Nayeli and three friends are inspired to travel to the United States to recruit seven Mexican men to defend and repopulate their village. This story has unforgettable characters and is a timely tale of an irresistible young woman’s quest to define herself without borders.
“For younger readers, Hood River Reads has selected ‘Becoming Naomi León’ … This is a book about a Mexican-American girl whose life in San Diego with her great-grandmother and brother is peaceful until disrupted by her mother’s reappearance. Naomi must go on a journey to Mexico to keep together the only family she’s ever known. She must find her voice and her missing father.”
New this year, Radio Tierra DJs Alejandro Cano and Gale Arnold have been reading “Into the Beautiful North” every Friday, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in Spanish and 8 p.m. in English. The series will continue until the book is finished, said James.
Advanced copies of the book in Spanish have already been released in conjunction with the Radio Tierra program — in part because of a Community Education Spanish-language GED program studying the book.
“Forty students are listening and reading the book at the same time,” James explained. The station broadcasts on 95.1 FM in Hood River, 107.7 FM in The Dalles, and 95.9 FM in Stevenson.
At the March 15 kickoff party, the Hood River Valley High School Poetry Club will recite Urrea’s poetry, Mayor Paul Blackburn will give the proclamation opening Hood River County Reads 2015, and staff will pass out free copies of “Into the Beautiful North” — children interested in “Becoming Naomi León” must either check out a copy from the library or check with their classroom teacher.
Hood River County Reads is made possible by Hood River County Library Foundation, Hood River County Education Foundation, Starseed Foundation, Gorge Community Foundation, Hood River Cultural Trust and Oregon Humanities, with additional support by Columbia Gorge Press, Hood River County School District, Hood River News, Sign Media, Starbucks Coffee, Waucoma Bookstore, Radio Tierra and Leighton Hazelhurst.
Programs and events:
March 15 — Kickoff, 2-4 p.m. at the Hood River County Library. Book distribution, music, refreshments and poetry.
March 17 — Kickoff events at the Parkdale and Cascade Locks libraries, 5-7 p.m. Book distribution.
March 29 — Oregon Humanities Conversation: The Future of Radical Diversity in Oregon, 2 p.m. in the Hood River Library meeting room.
April 2 — Book discussion of “Into the Beautiful North,” 6 p.m. in the Hood River Library meeting room.
April 12 — Panel, “Journey to Hood River, First Generation Stories,” 2 p.m. at the Hood River Library reading room.
April 19 — Movie, “The Magnificent Seven,” 2 p.m. at the Hood River Library meeting room.
April 25 — Public presentation by author Luis Urrea, 2 p.m. at the Hood River Library.
April 26 — Luis Urrea presentation in Spanish, 2 p.m. at Mid Valley Elementary.