By April 21, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

TALKING ABOUT DIVERSITY

Arlington Heights, Illinois, the community where I live and lead book discussions, has never conducted a “One Book, One City” reading program.  However, the public library does participate in a regional program organized by The Daily Herald, the newspaper that serves Arlington Heights and the surrounding towns.  It’s called “Suburban Mosaic,” and focuses on books that promote diversity.  Every year a new book is selected for adults to read and talk about, and there are also titles chosen for young adults and children.  Library staff members have provided input into the selection process, along with teachers, clergy, and representatives from the newspaper.  The books are widely promoted, and discussions are held in libraries, schools, churches and coffeeshops — so it’s the same idea as the “One Book, One City” model, except for the use of a continuing theme and wider coverage than just one town.  In past years, the adult readers have read and discussed The Kite Runner, The House on Mango Street, Dreams from My Father, and Enrique’s Journey.  

I’ve just learned that next year’s choice for the adult discussion groups is Digging to America, by Anne Tyler, and I’m very excited by this news.  To me, Anne Tyler is the ideal author for a satisfying book discussion.  Over the years, I’ve used many of her books with my groups, both at the library and in workshops illustrating how to lead effective discussions. So I’m definitely looking forward to talking about Digging to America.  In describing this book, Tara Gallagher of The Wall Street Journal states that Tyler has “a reputation as a master of the fine threads of human relationships,” which I think is the perfect way of summarizing the qualities that make her books so fascinating to read and talk about.

Digging to America centers on two families who become intertwined when they meet at the Baltimore airport on the evening both have come to pick up the Korean girls they are adopting.  One family has deep American roots, while the other has an Iranian background, although the adopting couple is fully assimilated to America.  Over the subsequent years, Tyler explores the closeness — and the tension — that develops between the two couples, their children, and their relatives.   This is her 17th novel, and it’s subtle and assured, as her fans would expect, but new readers can’t help but be drawn to this absorbing story of what it means to be an American, worked out on several different levels.  If you’re interested in looking at complex characters caught in a clash of cultures, please consider adding Digging to America to your list of titles for future discussions.

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About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).

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