Reading Together 2012 Blog

Kankakee to Kalamazoo

Have you noticed the great lineup of Reading Together programs for this year? I’m looking forward to “Kankakee to Kalamazoo.” Since moving to Kalamazoo, I’ve been intrigued by other places with unique names beginning with “Ka.” I always thought it would be fun to plan a road trip, from one “Ka” place to the next. We could start not too far away in Kalkaska, MI, pass by Kalamazoo, visit Kankakee and end up in Kalispell, MT, right near Glacier National Park.

Imagine my surprise, then, to learn that Kankakee is a primary destination for main character Nayeli, as she road trips Into the Beautiful North. She learns a lot on her long journey, even if some things she might rather not have discovered. Often when we travel, we learn so much from the people and places we encounter along the way. One could say the same about reading a well-written novel!

This April we have the chance to discover more about Kankakee directly from its residents, without ever leaving our dear town.


Into the Beautiful North

Urrea’s Newest Book

I just finished reading Queen of America, Urrea’s new book and the sequel to The Hummingbird’s Daughter which Eleanore wrote about last week.

I didn’t read them in order. Actually I’m still on the waiting list for Hummingbird’s Daughter, but I certainly understood and appreciated Queen of America. It didn’t feel as if I was starting in the middle of a story.

Queen of America continues the story of Teresita Urrea, the “Saint of Cabora” when she is forced to flee with her father from Mexico to Arizona. Even there she is claimed as the spiritual leader of the Mexican Revolution and pilgrims and assassins follow her to America. She then leaves the southwest for a journey across the country: New York, San Francisco, St Louis, among other cities. Along the way, she must decide if a saint can fall in love.

I knew these two books were based on Urrea’s family history, his great aunt, I believe, but I didn’t know the details. After reading it, I went to his website to understand the family history that is the basis for the story. In retrospect, I wish I had understood just how much of this account was true before reading the book.

I’ve now read several of Urrea’s books. They are different from each other in many ways, but all are well-written and compelling. I’m looking forward to his visit in March.


Queen of America

Your next reading journey

Once you've journeyed Into the Beautiful North with Nayeli and her friends, you may want to return to the warmth and culture of Mexico with another story featuring a strong female hero.  You will find all you search for in The Hummingbird's Daughter, Luis Alberto Urrea's 2005 novelization of his great-aunt Teresita's coming of age.  Teresita, who was renowned for her healing powers, was considered a saint by many.

The novel has elements of fairy tale, travelogue, western, magical realism, folklore, and explores issues of gender, class, faith, race, nationality, marriage, education, patriotism, and power  This book will make you laugh and cry, and savor Urrea's lyrical, imaginative prose.  When finished with this book, continue the adventure with Urrea's latest novel, a sequel titled Queen of America.

At the writing of this blog post, we only have one copy of The Hummingbird's Daughter in our catalog, but more are on the way!  Place a hold to be on the list for when these additional copies arrive.


The Hummingbird's Daughter

Reading [and participating] Together

“Suddenly there was no work. All the shrimp were shipped north, tortillas became too expensive to eat, and people started to go hungry. We told you change was bad, the old-timers croaked.

Nobody had heard of the term immigration. Migration, to them, was when the tuna and the whales cruised up the coast, or when Guacamaya parrots flew up from the south.  Traditionalists voted to revoke electricity, but it was far too late for that. No woman in town would give up her refrigerator, her electric fan, or her electric iron. So the men started to go to el norte. Nobody knew what to say. Nobody knew what to do. The modern era had somehow passed Tres Camarones by, but this new storm had found a way to siphon its men away. out of their beds and into the next century, into a land far away.” —Into the Beautiful North

This passage from the opening pages of Luis Urrea's Into the Beautiful North paints a picture of a Mexican village not unlike one we might read about in today's news. And for the fictitious Tres Camarones, there is the added presence of drug bandits who are threatening to take over the village with corruption, violence and greed; also sadly true to life. This is the setting from which Nayeli, a 19-year old girl, born and raised in Tres Camarones, sets out in search of her father and other men who will come back home to repopulate and defend their village.

And for the next three months, this will become our story as well.

A dedicated group of volunteers has helped Kalamazoo Public Library plan an exciting and meaningful lineup of Reading Together events that center on three far-reaching themes: The Book as Literature, The Culture of Mexico, and Immigration. After reading the book, we believe participating in these programs will provide several ways to process and reflect.

Today we bring you the enhanced Reading Together website, complete with a full calendar of events, additional resources, and more information about those who have contributed to this planning process. We welcome your reactions and your feedback, and we invite you to come back often.


Reading Together