Monday, March 28, 2011

Citywide Reads Nook Drawing

Last week the Santa Monica Citywide Reads nook drawing winner was selected. Those who attended a discussion of Wench were eligible to win.

And the winner is... Robbie Jones of Santa Monica. Congratulations Robbie! And a big thanks to all those who took park in Citywide Reads 2011.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Final Week of Citywide Reads!

Citywide Reads wraps up this Saturday, March 12, but not to worry -- there are still a couple of events remaining.

This year's Citywide Reads pick, Wench, a tale of four slave mistresses taken by their masters to a resort in free territory in pre-Civil War America, has inspired strong feelings in our readers, who have attended Citywide Reads book discussions this year in higher numbers than ever. There is still one more Wench discussion planned, for Saturday, March 12 at 1 p.m. in the Main Library's Multipurpose Room. Please join us!

Those interested in African American history won't want to miss "The Clayton Collections Alive," also happening on Saturday, March 12, at 3 p.m. in the Main Library's Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium. Join Larry Earl, Jr. from the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum in Culver City as he takes us back in time to meet African American poet Phillis Wheatley, and to learn about the struggle for civil rights from the collections housed within this amazing local resource.

About the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum: In the early 1960s, Librarian Mayme A. Clayton, Ph.D., began collecting documents, books, photographs, films and memorabilia chronicling the experience of Americans of African descent. Dr. Clayton collected everything from rare books, to movies, to handwritten slave records. In 2006, the MCLM found a permanent home in Culver City, where researchers may accessand study its rich resources.

Join us for these events on Saturday, and thank you for helping to make Citywide Reads a success!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Heidi Durrow's The Girl Who Fell from the Sky: Book Discussion and Author Event

A Citywide Reads volunteer wrote the following summary of her experience at the special discussion of Heidi Durrow's The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, as well as the lecture by the author which followed the discussion:

On March 2, a group of adults and teens attended a special Citywide Reads discussion at the Main Library to talk about the novel, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow.

The thought provoking discussion filled more than an hour of exchanges and engaging commentary, with the discussion often centered on the teenage protagonist and her emerging identity. Questions flew back and forth about various characters and the unfolding mystery that wove through the story. Broader issues surfaced like how do we come to know ourselves and how long does the journey take - all of which brought us back to Ms. Durrow's novel and the burning question: when will Rachel know herself? For that question, we later asked the author if there is a sequel forthcoming; she replied that she is currently working on other projects. The group viewed clips from three films that explored themes of identity: Persepolis, The Secret Life of Bees, and The Namesake.

Later in the evening Ms. Durrow gave a reading from her book that moved the audience to another level of understanding identity, as her voice lifted the prose from the page and we wrapped our hearts around the words.

Several people spoke highly of the Citywide Reads program and how much they loved the variety of books chosen over the years. They enjoyed the books on so many levels - reading the novels, discussing the issues, and hearing the authors' perspectives. Check out the Santa Monica Citywide Reads events and discussions through March 12, and join other readers who are talking about issues that rise off the pages of novels and engage us in conversations with one another.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reminder: Dolen Perkins-Valdez Event This Saturday!

Join us this Saturday, February 26, for a special Citywide Reads author event. The program begins promptly at 2:00 p.m. in the Main Library's MLK Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Blvd. Writer Dolen Perkins-Valdez will present an engaging reading and discussion her novel Wench. Seating is on first arrival basis. Tickets are free and available at 1:00 p.m. the day of the event. One ticket per person, and you must be present to receive a ticket.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Highlights from our Roots panel

As those of you who've been following us know, we followed up our special Citywide Reads screening series of Alex Haley's Roots with a cast panel discussion, featuring original cast members from that landmark miniseries. Cast members who joined us were (l to r) Beverly Todd (who played the adult Fanta), Lynne Moody (who played Irene), and surprise guest Georg Stanford Brown (who played Tom).

Entertainment journalist Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn did a fantastic job interviewing the panel and moderating audience questions. Cast members discussed their experience with Roots, how they came to the project and how it impacted their lives and careers both in the immediate timeframe at which it aired and from the longview over 30+ years later.

If you missed it, we're sorry you did, and we hope you'll remind yourself not to miss any of our future Santa Monica Citywide Reads special events. Coming up this Saturday, February 26, 2011 at 2:00 p.m., Wench author Dolen Perkins-Valdez will be joining us to share and discuss the book we're all reading together this year. It promises to be a fantastic event, and it's sure to be a full house. The program is free and tickets for auditorium seating will be released at 1:00 p.m. the day of the event. Seating is first come, first served. We hope to see you there.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Roots Panel Special Guests Announced

Santa Monica Citywide Reads has now officially begun. It's day two of our four-week program, and 2011 is shaping up to be a banner year for Santa Monica's community reading program. In case you've not been paying attention, this year's featured book is the NAACP Image Award nominee, Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. Wench is the story of four slave mistresses in the years prior to the Civil War. Piggybacking on the theme of slavery, we decided to look back at Alex Haley's landmark portrait of Americans of African descent, Roots. We started a six-day screening of the full miniseries yesterday, and that series continues through this Saturday afternoon. Following the final episode screening on Saturday, Feburary 19th, at 3:00 p.m., we're also hosting a very special discussion panel on Roots with original cast members from that landmark television event. The panel was originally planned to include LeVar Burton and Louis Gossett, Jr., but due to schedule changes that took them out of town on the date we had planned, both Mr. Burton and Mr. Gossett had to bow out. We'll miss them, for sure, but we've still got two cast members who will celebrate the legacy of Roots with us. And, appropriately enough, given that Wench is a story of four women, written by a female author, it turns out that our panel will be headlined by women.

The panel will be moderated by entertainment journalist Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn, and panelists will include actresses Lynne Moody and Beverly Todd. Other cast members may join us, but we won't know until the day of the program.

If you're interested in joining us for this panel, the program is free and open to the public. Tickets are required for the cast discussion and will be released at noon on Saturday, February 19th in the Main Library's north lobby. One ticket per guest, and guest must be present to receive a ticket. No prior reservations are available. The screening of episode 6 will begin at 1:00 p.m. in our Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium. Ticket holders may enjoy this episode's screening, or join us later for the panel. Following the conclusion of the episode 6 screening, at 3:00 p.m., the cast panel discussion will take place in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium as well. Remember: tickets are required for Auditorium seating for the cast panel, so be sure to stop by early and pick up a ticket before they're gone. Seating is first come, first served, until seating capacity has been reached.

The Main Santa Monica Public Library is at 601 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401. If you need to reach us by phone, call (310) 458-8600, or you can find us on the web at

Friday, February 11, 2011

Citywide Reads begins February 14th!

We're right up to the start of Citywide Reads and looking forward to meeting all of you and discussing Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez in the coming weeks. Citywide Reads officially begins on Monday, February 14th, and our first discussion will be held Wednesday, February 16th, at 7:00 p.m. at our Montana Branch Library, 1704 Montana Avenue.

For those of you who are looking for a small taste of what you're in for, we hope you'll enjoy this brief excerpt from Wench.

Drayle did something that astounded his wife. Tired of sleeping on the storeroom floor with his new lover, he moved her into the guest bedroom across from his own. That was when Fran began to pinch Lizzie.

The pinches were hard enough to bruise. Fran did it secretly--in the kitchen, on the stairs, in the hallway, in the yard. She searched for new places, beginning with Lizzie's cheek. Then an arm. Thigh. Side. Shoulder. She seemed to relish discovering each new point of hurt. Sometimes Lizzie even caught the woman examining her body, as if searching for a new place. Lizzie tried to stay out of her way. Tried to bypass her in the familiar layout of rooms.

At night, Drayle came to her, but Lizzie didn't tell him about Fran's game. Instead, she made excuses for the bruises. She told him that colored people bruise easier than whites. This explanation seemed to satisfy him and he took care not to touch her in those places.

After two weeks, Fran grew tired of her pinches and left Lizzie alone. Lizzie was grateful and went out of her way to make Fran pleased. She cleaned the woman's room without being asked, ironed her clothes, and put extra sausage on the breakfast trays delivered to Fran in the morning.

The house slaves had accepted Lizzie as Drayle's woman, and they now looked to her to convince him of favors. If someone was sick down in the quarters, they asked Lizzie to whisper the news to him so the person would be granted a reprieve. Another time, Lizzie convinced Drayle to let the slaves have extra rations of meat. Each time Lizzie was able to redeem a request, the field slaves accepted her position a bit more.

Wench is copyright © 2010 Dolen Perkins-Valdez. All rights reserved. It is published by Amistad, a division of HarperCollins Publishers.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Citywide Reads Special Event: Alex Haley's Roots

Special events are an important component of our Santa Monica Citywide Reads program, and this year we're really excited about what we have in store for you. Our 2011 selection is Dolen Perkins-Valdez's Wench, the story of four enslaved mistresses in the decade prior to the Civil War. To coincide with the theme of slavery, we turned to what is surely one of the most well-known and high quality depictions of the topic in the past few decades: Alex Haley's Roots.

Beginning February 14, the Main Library will screen the entire miniseries of Roots in a six-day marathon of screenings. Episodes 1 through 5 will screen in our Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium at 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, February 14 through 18. The finale, Episode 6, will screen at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 19. Following the final episode screening, at 3:00 p.m., we'll also present a very special discussion on the cultural impact of Roots, moderated by entertainment journalist Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn and original cast members from the miniseries. We're still putting the panel together, so we don't have guest names to announce just yet, but it's sure to be a truly special event, no matter what.

Note: tickets for the cast panel will be required, and are free to the public. Tickets will be released at noon, February 19th in the Main Library lobby. Only one ticket per guest, and guest must be present to receive a ticket. No reservations are available. Seating is first come, first served.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Win a Nook!

Join us at any of the Citywide Reads book discussions of Wench, February 16 through March 12, to enter your name in the drawing to win a Nook Color ebook reader.

Read the flier for official rules and restrictions.

The Library invites you to participate in the following facilitator-led public book discussions:
·Wed, Feb 16 at 7:00 p.m., Montana Branch, 1704 Montana Avenue
·Sat, Feb 19 at 12:30 p.m., First AME Church, 1823 Michigan Avenue
·Tues, Feb 22 at 7:00 p.m., Fairview Branch Library, 2101 Ocean Park Blvd.
·Sat, Feb 26 at 11:00 a.m., CafĂ© Bolivar, 1741 Ocean Park Boulevard
·Mon, Feb 28 at 1:30 p.m., Senior Recreation Center, 1450 Ocean Avenue
·Sat, Mar 5 at 11:00 a.m., Ocean Park Branch Library, 2601 Main Street
·Mon, Mar 7 at 2:00 p.m., Tudor House, 1403 Second Street
·Sat, Mar 12 at 1:00 p.m., Main Library, 601 Santa Monica Boulevard

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hot Off The Presses!

Just a quick entry to congratulate Dolen Perkins-Valdez! We just got word that in the next issue of The New York Times, the trade paperback release of Wench will make its debut at #16 in their best seller list. We hope we had a little bit to do with that. We know lots of you are picking up copies at the library, at your local bookstore, and we're looking forward to reading and discussing it with all of you very soon.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Get Your Copy of Wench Today!

Santa Monica Citywide Reads is now in full swing.
Books are available at the Main and branch libraries, as well as bookstores everywhere. In case you've not been paying attention, this year's selection is Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.
Wench is the story of four slave mistresses in the pre-Civil War era. The paperback edition of Wench was officially released this past Tuesday (January 25th) and we're hoping Dolen will get a strong response from readers.

In the build-up to the paperback release, The Washington Post just published a very interesting article on Dolen and her book. Those interested can read it here:

The beautiful photo posted above comes courtesy of the Washington Post's Mark Gail.

And, remember, you can always find out more about our Citywide Reads program at the Library's website:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

And the nominees are...

Just as we're officially kicking off Santa Monica Citywide Reads 2011, we've gotten great news from the NAACP Image Awards. Our selection for 2011, Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, was just nominated for two awards in the NAACP's literature categories: Best Novel and Best First Novel. Needless to say, we're very proud of Dolen and rooting hard for her to take home an award or two.

And the news gets even better. Heidi Durrow's The Girl Who Fell from the Sky was also nominated for Best First Novel. Five months ago, when our selection committee met to make our 2011 selection, both Wench and The Girl Who Fell from the Sky were among our five finalists. Selection committee members were so impressed by both books, as well as a third nominee (Kathryn Stockett's The Help), that they asked us to spotlight those books in some way as well. In addition to reading Wench with all of you, we'll also be hosting two special bonus book discussions of The Help and The Girl Who Fell from the Sky during the latter half of Citywide Reads 2011. We weren't able to entice Kathryn Stockett to make a visit to Santa Monica for an author talk to coincide with our discussion of her book, but Heidi Durrow will definitely be visiting with us, immediately following our discussion of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky on Wednesday, March 2nd. And that's just two days before the NAACP Image Awards ceremony, so we'll get to cheer her on personally as well.

We're thrilled that both Wench and The Girl Who Fell from the Sky received nominations, and we hope you'll join us in reading and discussing both, and coming out to meet Dolen and Heidi. For a full listing of dates and times for our Citywide Reads discussions and special events, click through to our PDF resource guide:

And be sure to check out the NAACP Image Awards website to see all of their nominees:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Check Out Our Resource Guide

Check this out! Citywide Reads blog followers are among the first to see our gorgeous new resource guide for the Santa Monica Citywide Reads 2011 featured novel, Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. You can check out a PDF of the whole thing at You'll get more info on the book, the author, a historical timeline of slavery, a few other reads we recommend, resources for more information, a few book discussion starter questions, and loads of info on our book discussions and special events. We'll talk more about those later, but be sure to check them out. Some of them are going to be really special.

We hope you'll join us. Books should start arriving at the Main Library and all branches during the week of January 24th. So be sure to stop by.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chris Cleave passes the baton to Dolen Perkins-Valdez

As we mentioned in our last post, Chris Cleave returned to the Los Angeles-area this past week, and just like the charmer he usually is, he took the time out to film a brief "passing of the baton" video to this year's Santa Monica Citywide Reads author and book, Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.

Check it out here:

And be sure to start checking in with us next week as we start to roll out the schedule, details and more info on Santa Monica Citywide Reads 2011. We're officially less than a month away from the program's start and we're really excited. See you again soon!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Another chance to meet Chris Cleave, 2010 Santa Monica Citywide Reads featured author

As we get ready to turn towards the 2011 Santa Monica Citywide Reads selection, we're taking one quick look back at our 2010 featured author, Chris Cleave. It's timely that we're doing so, as well, because Chris will be back in the Los Angeles area next week for two book tour appearances. We heard from many who missed their chance to see Chris when he visited with us at the Santa Monica Public Library in February 2010, so this might be a great chance to catch up with this absolutely delightful author.

On Wednesday, January 12th at 7:00 p.m., Chris will visit Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena to sign copies of his first novel, Incendiary. Details on his Vroman's appearance can be found here:

The following night, Thursday, January 13th at 7:00 p.m., Chris will visit our good friends Book Soup in West Hollywood, also to sign Incendiary. But we're sure he'll be happy to sign copies of Little Bee as well. More details on that signing can be found here:

If you have a chance to stop by and meet Chris at either of these events, tell him your friends at the Santa Monica Public Library sent you.