Big Read Roswell to kick off
By Christina Stock
Committee members have been working on the Big Read Roswell event since September 2019. The project was made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read Grant. At the time, chairperson Rollah Aston and the other members could not imagine that the next year would make any live events impossible due to the pandemic. However, true to the book the committee chose, “Into the Beautiful North,” by Luis Alberto Urrea, the members persevered, even though some had moved, others retired, such as Aston did — he retired from his position as director at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell Learning Resource Center. ENMU-Rs spearheaded the event and is one of the many organizations and businesses supporting the project.
“It’s a cliché but it’s really true, without the support of all these community partners we wouldn’t be anywhere, we couldn’t do it,” Aston said.
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Director of the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art (AMoCA) Nancy Fleming said, “We should stress, this effort has been community wide, from the first committee that Rollah set up, which was spearheaded by Eastern (ENMU-R), and from that our ‘satellites’ are going out to other people and organizations. We appreciate everybody’s participation because it makes it more known, more accessible to everybody and more fun.”
Asked who else is involved, Aston said, “We have main partners: Friends of the Library, the school district (Roswell Independent School District), the public library and the museum (Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art) are the main ones; Leprino, McDonald’s, Xcel; the Literary Council was there at the beginning, these are some of the sponsors, plus the Historical Society, MainStreet Roswell, Pioneer Bank, Majestic Communication, Pecos Valley Broadcasting and the Roswell Daily Record.”
“Yesterday, Jori Flom, literacy coach for the Roswell Independent School District, and I went to these businesses. She’s been helping to organize; she’s going to be doing the moderating of our Zoom events. She is also in charge of the website,” Fleming said. A new website bigreadroswell.com was created that will feature all events leading up to the kickoff on Jan. 23 until the last event on March 20.
Fleming and Flom brought specially designed display boxes with Urrea’s books in English and Spanish, as well as a variety of books for younger children and bookmarks to various business breakrooms in Roswell.
“The Friends of the Library are helping and sponsoring the breakroom books, and that’s one part to getting the books to people. What we’ve done is creating 50 displays and so yesterday, Jan. 4, we’ve started to bring them out. We brought them to Leprino, Albertsons, U-Haul, city hall, Pioneer Bank, McDonald’s, Stellar Coffee. We have 50 of these that we want in breakrooms. We have five copies of the English version and one of the Spanish version and on some of the displays, we’ll have the kids’ books as well. Those are free. They can read it during their lunch or take it home and then from there they can give it to a friends, bring it back for another employee and when they are totally out they can call me. We’ll be bringing it to some of the big retail stores, but any business that wants one, until supplies are depleted, or tell me where to deliver one. Hopefully people will call,” Fleming said.
“One of the most important objectives or goals if you will of the Big Read is the books distributed out in the community and have as many people of all ages read the books. I am very happy that Nancy came up with this breakroom concept because that’s an excellent way to get them out,” Aston said.
In the light of the pandemic, the book “Into the Beautiful North,” couldn’t be more timely.
“Something that needs to be stressed too is the book itself is a good story,” Aston said. “Young people trying to find their way in the world, their identity, trying to establish the sense of family. The main character is trying to find her father who left the Mexican village years ago. It’s a book about friendship, loyalty, overcoming adversity. It’s got all those big themes in it and one of the biggest themes is no matter where you come from, even the people that live in a garbage dump down in Tijuana, there is a common humanity that everybody has. Everybody has dreams of a better life, success, love for their family, love for their friends. The bottom line: It’s a good book.”
“There will be book club discussions,” Fleming said. “The public will be invited to participate in discussions, even if they are not part of a book club. Mr. Urrea is going to talk on March 13, but we have another event that couldn’t happen until the 20th. We’ve got an artist who teaches at the border of Mexico, but he has this performance where he gives away his own art, so he’s going to come and give out free art. His name is Paul Valadez, so we’ve got an extra event after the keynote. And then, like I said, the website will live on, but that will be the end of our main focus, unless something comes up and we do it later.”
There are a multitude of other events lined up, some taking place already, such as the Roswell Public Library hosting The Bridges and Borders Art Contest, which is open to artists ages 6 years to adult. Drop off or email an original artwork by Jan. 15, not exceeding 8.2 by 11 inches, about an experience with bridges and borders. Winning artwork will be Roswell Big Read kickoff virtual event. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 575-622-7101.
According to Fleming, AMoCA is having a special game, Loteria-Mexican Bingo Art Contest with the same deadline on Jan. 15. Lotería (lottery in Spanish) is a bingo-type game, played with a deck of picture cards instead of numbers. The contest invites the public to design a Loteria card using original artwork of either a traditional Loteria “object” or a new one. All entries will be exhibited at the Anderson Museum from Jan. 23 to March 20. Fifty-four entries will be chosen to make a Loteria card deck (announced on Jan. 23). For more information, visit its Facebook event page or call Fleming at 575-623-5600.
Fleming said about the kickoff day, “We will have an introduction, a video from the author that we will intersperse; then the rest of the day will be interspersed with videos, music. We are working on community groups to be part of the kickoff, but virtually. It is either pre-recorded or their live event streamed. But before that, we’ve already had, book clubs have picked up books. We had two classes read the book and this spring, we have three classes on campus read the book. And the Early College High School is reading it, and the high schools, juniors and seniors.”
Other activities include movies that can be rented by Roswell Public Library card holders; a presentation by author Denise Chavez about similar themes in her books to those of Urrea’s book. Chavez will have a writing workshop on Jan. 25 for college students. As part of the Sunday Fun Day at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Museum, local educator Dolores Fresquez will talk about the history of Hispanic life in Southeast New Mexico. Times and details will be listed on the Big Read Roswell website, which will be interactive.
“We will have books that can be picked up in three locations in town for the general public, to just come and pick it up: The Anderson Museum, the Roswell Public Library and ENMU-R,” Fleming said.
According to Aston, ENMU-R is going to have their book pickup location in its library, the Learning Resource Center.
The physical books are meant to be shared, which is noted on stickers inside of the books. “We’ve ordered 800, but we’ve got also 50 of the Spanish books. We also got more books that we’ll be ordering; we probably will give out more than 1,000 books. That’s for sure,” Fleming said.
“I want to express my gratitude to all the members of the committee that have done such a wonderful job. We tried to meet through thick and thin. Once we got through the summer, we started meeting up again to get all this planned. It was only a month/six weeks ago that we decided that the only way to do it was virtually and since that time we met with that in mind. We had to cross that bridge and realize we have to do it virtually or we can’t do it at all.
“One more thing which I am going to apply to our wonderful committee, one of the other themes of the book is perseverance. It ties all together: Don’t give up, keep on going. Basically, I think that is our committee too. I’ve had people tell me we could have folded up and that’s it, but we decided, no. No matter how, we are going to do it. Perseverance — we are following that way the theme of the book. No, we are not quitting, we are going to do this, we are going to put this on,” Aston said and chuckled.