BEMIDJI -- With the help of the National Endowment for the Arts, nearly 1,000 local readers will come together this month to share the story of “The Round House” by Louise Erdrich.
The A.C. Clark Library at BSU and the Bemidji Public Library were recipients of a Big Read grant from the NEA. The funding will help the two libraries, as well as a number of collaborating entities, host a community-wide reading program focused on Erdrich's award-winning book.
Patrick Leeport, a librarian at the A.C. Clark Library, said it is the first time he knows of where the two Bemidji libraries collaborated on a large project.
“We could have done it as just a university library, but it made sense to bring in more of the community," Leeport said. "The more we include -- it gets a little bit muddier -- but I think it gets better with every group that we bring in."
The month-long read will kick-off with an opening reception at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 14, at the Watermark Art Center. From there, there will be a handful of additional events, including discussions about the book, a lecture by attorney Mike Garbow and an event focused on women in politics. A full list of the events will be available at the A.C. Clark Library Facebook page.
The grant from the NEA was nearly $8,000. Along with funding for programming, that amount provided just under 1,000 copies of “The Round House.” It also provided for 100 copies of “Bowwow Powwow,” which is a bilingual book in both Ojibwemowin and English by Red Lake author Brenda Child, who works at the University of Minnesota. One of the events included in the program will be a Story Time with children at the public library at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26.
Once they received the grant, the libraries could have picked any one of dozens of books. But when they realized “The Round House” was on the list, they didn’t really feel the need to look any further, Ara Gallo, assistant branch librarian at the public library, said.
"The Round House" was the winner of the National Book Award for fiction in 2012. It is set on a reservation in North Dakota, where a boy’s mother is raped. The story takes on issues such as tribal sovereignty and violence toward Native women.
“These really resonate with our community… that’s why we picked this book,” Gallo said of the themes in the book.
Bemidji was one of 78 communities to receive a Big Read grant. It was the only such grant awarded in Minnesota, according to Leeport and Gallo. In addition to the two libraries in Bemidji, the tribal colleges at Red Lake, Leech Lake and White Earth will be participating in the Big Read.
Tom Hokanson of Red Lake Nation College said he and another instructor have combined their English classes for the semester and have incorporated “The Round House” into the curriculum. He said they have discussed topics touched on in the book such as inequalities in the criminal justice system, sexual assault and racial issues. Carla Norris-Raynbird, a sociology adjunct instructor at Red Lake Nation College, said her students are also reading the book.
“Overall, it has been a useful text that has motivated our students to read more,” Hokanson said.