Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Win a Free Copy of Wench from the Author Herself!

Wench author Dolen Perkins-Valdez is offering a free autographed copy of the book and another prize to whomever is her 1,000th "Like" on Facebook!

Facebook members can "Like" her at this address:

NPR, Library Journal Choose Wench as a Best Book

The secret is out! Wench is no longer a hidden gem. Library Journal, a respected trade publication, recently chose Wench as one of its top fiction books for 2010, calling it a "memorable and engaging debut [that] challenges readers to take a fresh look at the 'peculiar institution' of slavery." http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/newslettersnewsletterbucketbooksmack/887785-439/lj_best_books_2010_more.html.csp

National Public Radio also loves Wench, listing it on the NPR Web site as one of the best books of 2010 ("a fascinating and tragic story that is also a compulsive read") and recommending it as a Book Club Pick: http://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131734769/book-club-picks-give-em-something-to-talk-about

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Looking for something good to read?

There are still a couple of months before Citywide Reads 2011, but if you're looking for something good to read, check out Citywide Reads selections from past years.

Want more? A wealth of reading lists have been released in the past few weeks, including Amazon's Best Books of the Year, which includes Editors' Picks as well as Customer Favorites, Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2010, and the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2010.

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

In Good Company

Way back in 1998, Seattle Public Library got the one city, one book concept rolling with their first Seattle Reads selection. Now we've found out that that estimable community reading program has tapped Chris Cleave's Little Bee for their 2011 selection, and we're thrilled that they've done so. Little Bee, as most of you know, was the Santa Monica Citywide Reads 2010 selection and it was a tremendous success for us, and Chris Cleave was a dream to work with. So, to Seattle, we say: Good selection!
And to Chris Cleave we send our heartiest congratulations.
And for Santa Monica Citywide Reads, stay tuned here or visit: http://www.smpl.org/cwr/

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hardcover vs. Paperback: Which Image Do You Prefer?

Which Image Do You Prefer?
Our Citywide Reads pick for 2010, Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s Wench, will soon be released in paperback (we’ll be giving out copies of the paperback starting in late January). The paperback cover, pictured at right, is obviously quite different from the hardcover jacket image, shown at left. Which do you prefer, and why? For those of you who have read the book, which do you think better symbolizes what the book is about? Please leave comments below.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Meet Dolen Perkins-Valdez, our Citywide Reads Author for 2011

If you’d like to get an early start with Santa Monica Citywide Reads this year, take a look at author Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s website http://www.dolenperkinsvaldez.com/. You’ll find images of the Tawawa House resort, a brief biography of the author, a link to an NPR interview with Lynn Neary on NPR's Tell Me More, and plenty more to explore.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Be Part of Santa Monica Citywide Reads 2011

Interested in talking about books? The Library is currently seeking volunteer discussion leaders for the Santa Monica Citywide Reads featured novel Wench, by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Wench is the story of four slave mistresses in pre-Civil War America.

Volunteers must commit to leading at least one ninety-minute book discussion group, held at various venues throughout Santa Monica, between mid-February and mid-March 2011. Volunteers must also attend one of two discussion leader training sessions, scheduled at the Main Library on Thursday, January 13 at 7:00 pm and Saturday, January 15 at 1:30 pm.
To volunteer and get more details, send an e-mail to libraryprograms@smgov.net or call/leave a message with Library Volunteer Services at 310-458-8646. For more information on Santa Monica Citywide Reads, visit www.smpl.org/cwr.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Santa Monica Citywide Reads selection for 2011 is...

WENCH by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.

WENCH follows the stories of four slave mistresses – Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu – over the course of three summers in pre-Civil War America. Taken by their masters on holiday to Tawawa House, a summer resort in Ohio, the women encounter free blacks and whispers of the abolitionist movement and are forced to consider their lives, their positions back home, and their hopes and dreams for the future. Dolen Perkins-Valdez was inspired to write the novel when she came across a footnote about Tawawa House, a real resort, while researching her own doctoral thesis on slave literature. Wench was borne out of the author’s musings on why, when presented with the possibility of escaping into free land, some slaves would run, while others would choose to stay with their masters.

We're certain that WENCH should be a provocative and discussion-worthy book, and we're looking forward to reading it with all of you.

Santa Monica Citywide Reads 2011 will take place from February 14 through March 12, 2011, and will feature free public book discussion groups led by volunteer facilitators and held in libraries, bookstores, coffeehouses, and other venues throughout the city. Related special events, including an author talk with Dolen Perkins-Valdez, are also being planned. Stay tuned here or visit our website at http://www.smpl.org/cwr to keep up with the schedule as it develops.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Catch the Buzz, Live on TV

Tune in to Santa Monica's CityTV tonight at 7:00pm, for a one-hour, live discussion of our Citywide Reads book, Little Bee by Chris Cleave. This will be the fourth year of bringing the discussion to you live, in your own living room. The program will be hosted by one of our veteran book discussion leaders, Beverly Gray, with guests Max Diamond and Mary Menzel. This year, we'll also be welcoming Barry Kibrick, producer and host of Southern California’s premiere interview program “Between the Lines,” for a special appearance to provide his perspective.

The program will be aired on Santa Monica's CityTV, channel 16. For the first time ever, the program will also be carried live on LA36, cable channel 36 in the City of Los Angeles. If you'd like to participate in the book discussion, please call in with your questions during the 7:00-8:00 p.m. hour at 310-458-4950.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Oh, What a Day!!!

Wow, was it ever a good day today at the Santa Monica Public Library! This afternoon, we welcomed author Chris Cleave to the Main Library's Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium, along with more than 150 readers, a pair of talented actresses, and it all added up to a spectacular Citywide Reads event.

Just prior to Chris' appearance, we put on a brief, but very moving staged reading of excerpts from Little Bee, which we called "The Voices of Little Bee." Actress Petal d'Avril Walker gave voice to Little Bee and actress and veteran audiobook reader Rosalyn Landor gave voice to Sarah. The result was fifteen minutes of theater that we think left author Chris Cleave, as well as the audience, both mesmerized and moved. The photo below features Petal, Rosalyn, Library Board President Edward Edwards (who scripted and directed this performance), and Chris Cleave. And we really want to thank Petal, Rosalyn and Edward for all their hard work in putting this unique and very special reading together.

Immediately following the staged reading, we welcomed Chris to the stage to discuss his book and we have a pretty strong feeling that audience members fell head over heels for this charming, gregarious and talented author.
Chris told three stories that inspired his decision to write Little Bee. While in high school, Chris was deeply affected when his school's principal shared a video with students of four young East Berliners risking life and limb to escape to the West. Video of that escape can be seen on Youtube in this German television video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUkimskFJ0w. Chris came away from that screening viewing those asylum seekers as heroes. However, by the time was 22, the world appeared to have changed. That summer, Chris was assigned as a day laborer to work at a newly-opened immigration detention center called Campsfield House near his U.K. home, and spent 3 days learning the stories of the refugees he met there from countries like Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Jamaica. At the time, he was struck by the fact that these asylum seekers were detained in prison-like conditions for indefinite terms, and treated as if they were criminals, when all they had done was flee horrific situations in their home countries. Finally, in 2005, he learned the story of Angolan asylum seeker Manuel Bravo. Bravo's story is a difficult one to hear, but there's a chilling account of it on Britain's Independent newspaper website, which you can reach via this link: http://bit.ly/cN1ai4. Finally prodded by Bravo's tale, Chris began interviewing refugees, doing independent research, and then spent roughly two years writing Little Bee. His intent was to take an unwieldy issue such as immigration and asylum and turn it into an intimate, accessible story that might challenge readers to think about the larger issue. As he pointed out to audience members, Little Bee is not his attempt to offer answers to such a challenging problem, but rather to start a debate.

For anyone who missed Chris' appearance with us, we're very sorry you did. But we definitely welcome you to join in on any one of our five remaining book discussions, or watch us on CityTV (Channel 16 in Santa Monica, and Channel 36 in Los Angeles) this coming Wednesday, February 24 at 7pm as we conduct a live, call-in discussion of the book. We also have a couple more related special events yet to come, including The Art of Storytelling on Saturday, March 6 at 2pm, in which veteran storyteller and artist Michael D. McCarty celebrates Little Bee's claim that even a sad story can be proof "that this storyteller is alive!"

For dates, times and venues for everything we still have in store, check out our resource guide, posted here: http://www.smpl.org/cwr/LITTLE%20BEE.pdf.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's The Issue?

We've made it through a couple book discussions now and one thing most readers seem most interested in discussing about Little Bee is the real-life issues it weaves into its fictional narrative. With Little Bee, the predominant issue would be immigration and asylum for refugees, and discussion participants definitely had a lot to say, both about the issues themselves, as well as how skillfully (or not) Chris Cleave handled those issues within his story. Discussion participants also cited other novels they've enjoyed that dealt with a specific issue well fictionally, books like our 2005 Citywide Reads selection The Kite Runner, as well as classics like The Grapes of Wrath. We'd definitely be interested in hearing what you think, so please take the time to join one of our other upcoming discussions.

You may also be wondering what that picture to the right is. On Wednesday afternoon, February 17th, several of our librarians swooped down on the Third Street Promenade for a "book mob" to promote Santa Monica Citywide Reads. Similar to "flash mobs," where a group of people converge, unannounced, on a given spot for a brief time to catch the public's attention, we dropped in on the Promenade during the Wednesday Farmer's Market rush and passed out coupons for Little Bee books, and conducted a few flash group readings of segments we love from the book. We definitely caught the interest of many passersby, and if any of those passersby was you, we hope to see you at an upcoming discussion or special event. In fact, we hope to see all of you.

Remember, this coming Saturday afternoon, we'll be hosting Chris Cleave himself for a special author presentation, as well as a special staged reading of excerpts from Little Bee by actresses Rosalyn Landor and Petal d'Avril Walker. The program starts at the Main Library at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, February 20th, and free tickets for Auditorium seating will be released at 12:30 p.m. We definitely advise an early arrival, as we think this one will be filled to capacity quickly.

See you then!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Meet Chris Cleave

Hello Readers,

It's the eve of Santa Monica Citywide Reads 2010. Our program officially begins tomorrow, Friday, February 12th, and our first book discussion takes place Saturday, February 13th at 11:00 a.m. at Cafe Bolivar, 1741 Ocean Park Blvd. We definitely encourage those of you who've read the book early to stop by and let us know what you think.

But, as we're just about to kick everything off, we thought it a great to time to introduce you to the author we're celebrating this year: Chris Cleave.

We're excited to be working with Chris, who has proven to be a charming and lovely fellow, and we very much look forward to his appearance at the Main Library on Saturday, February 20th. The program will kick off at 1:30 p.m. with a special staged reading of excerpts from Little Bee, performed by actresses Petal d'Avril Walker (as Little Bee) and Rosalyn Landor (as Sarah). Chris will follow at roughly 2:00 p.m. and he'll definitely be taking audience questions, followed by a book signing. Tickets for this program will be released at 12:30 p.m. the day of the event, and we expect them to go fast, so arrive early.

Back to that introduction of Chris. Born in London in 1973, Chris spent his childhood in Buckinghamshire and the West African nation of Cameroon. A graduate of Balliol College, Oxford, he studied psychology, then ran through a series of smaller jobs. He eventually took up professional writing, first as a writer for London's Daily Telegraph, then on to his current weekly column on parenting for The Guardian newspaper. You can check out his column via his own website, http://www.chriscleave.com/, or directly on The Guardian's site, www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/series/down-with-the-kids.

In 2005, his first novel, Incendiary, was released to controversy and acclaim. The novel, about a London mother coping with loss of her husband and son in a terrorist bombing, went on to win numerous awards, including the Somerset Maugham Award and the Book-of-the-Month Club First Fiction prize. He followed that up in 2008 with the novel The Other Hand, which was released in the U.S. in early 2009 as Little Bee.

We look forward to hearing what you have to say about this year's featured novel, and we hope you'll come out on the 20th to meet Chris and share your thoughts with him as well. Chris tells us that he looks forward to meeting all of you.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Special Events

Mark your calendars for these upcoming special events. We have a great lineup this year, with six events you won’t want to miss! It all begins on February 20, when the author will join us for a book discussion & signing.

The Voices of Little Bee
Saturday, February 20 at 1:30 pm — Main Library, MLK Jr. Auditorium
As a special prelude to author Chris Cleave’s appearance, we present this special reading of passages from Little Bee, in which the voices of Sarah and Little Bee are brought to life by gifted local actresses, Rosalyn Landor and Petal d’Avril Walker.

An Afternoon with Chris Cleave
Saturday, February 20 at 2:00 pm — Main Library, MLK Jr. Auditorium
The award-winning author of Little Bee presents a reading and discussion, followed by a book signing.

City TV Call-In Show
Wednesday, February 24 at 7:00 pm — Tune in to Channel 16
Can’t make it to one of our book discussions, or just looking for more perspective into Little Bee? Tune in to Channel 16 for a live, moderated discussion of this year’s featured novel, and feel free to call in with questions of your own.

Incendiary Book Discussion
Monday, March 1 at 7:00 pm — Main Library, Community Room
Published to controversy and acclaim in 2005, Chris Cleave’s first novel traces the tumultuous fallout for a London woman when her husband and young son are killed in a terrorist attack.

Movie Screening: The Visitor
Tuesday, March 2 at 7:00 pm — Main Library, MLK Jr. Auditorium
The story of Walter Vale (Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins), who returns home after a conference to find two illegal immigrants living in his apartment. These disparate characters come to know each other and affect each other’s lives in a story that is very similar to the themes of Little Bee.

The Art of Storytelling with Michael D. McCarty
Saturday, March 6 at 2:00 pm — Main Library, MLK Jr. Auditorium
Storytelling lies at the heart of Little Bee. As Little Bee states, even a sad story offers proof that “this storyteller is alive.” Michael D. McCarty has been entertaining audiences through the art of storytelling for a long time now. Drawing on international folk tales and other storytelling techniques, Michael taps into stories that inform, educate, inspire and amuse.

Little Bee Book Discussions

This year we will be hosting seven book discussions, led by trained volunteers, at locations around the city. Please join us for one (or more!) of these free public sessions. No registration is required; just bring yourself and your observations, thoughts, and comments about Little Bee.

Saturday, February 13 at 11:00 am — CafĂ© Bolivar, 1741 Ocean Park Blvd. (no permit required for Saturday parking)

Wednesday, February 17 at 7:00 pm — Montana Branch Library, 1704 Montana Ave.

Monday, February 22 at 2:00 pm — Tudor House, 1403 Second St.

Saturday, February 27 at 11:00 am — Fairview Branch Library, 2101 Ocean Park Blvd.

Saturday, March 6 at 11:00 am — Ocean Park Branch Library, 2601 Main St.

Monday, March 8 at 7:00 pm — Main Library, 601 Santa Monica Blvd.

Thursday, March 11 at 1:30 pm — Senior Recreation Center, 1450 Ocean Ave.

We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Little Bee is our 2010 Title

Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, is the 2010 Santa Monica Citywide Reads featured title.

The second novel by emerging literary talent Chris Cleave, Little Bee is the harrowing and beautiful story of a teenage Nigerian refugee and a married pair of disaffected British journalists, whose lives and destinies collide in unexpected and shocking ways.

Touching on themes of immigration, family, infidelity and loyalty, the book deftly examines the intricacies of human connection and the sacrifices we all make to get by in life. The New York Times calls the book “immensely readable and moving…an affecting story of human triumph,” and The Chicago Sun-Times raves “Little Bee is a loud shout of talent.” Little Bee was shortlisted in 2008 for the Costa Book Award for Best Novel and in 2009 for Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book.