What is a community-wide read?
Please direct questions about Fox Cities Reads to Joe Bongers at Bongers@menashalibrary.org or to your local Fox Cities public library.
Support for Fox Cities Reads
Fox Cities Reads ~ How It Started, and Where It’s Going (2011)
by Michael Kenney
In 2007 the public libraries of the Fox Cities, including Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Kimberly, Little Chute and Kaukauna, joined together to sponsor the first Fox Cities Reads. The libraries put together a slate of potential books and authors that they felt would serve well as a community read book and actually published a ballot for patrons in the Fox Cities to vote for. The book that brought in the most votes and thus selected as 2007’s community read selection was Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by New York Times best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich.
The selection of an author the stature of Ehrenreich, and the costs to bring in such an acclaimed author necessitated the area libraries to seek additional sponsorship to fund an author appearance. That appeal ended up spawning a wonderful initiative to be known as Project Promise. Project Promise's mission was (and is) one of awareness, education and action dealing with poverty in the Fox Cities and ways it can be eradicated. Sponsors, in addition to the grants of the participating libraries, included the Appleton Library Foundation (now the Friends of Appleton Public Library), CHAT (Community Health Action Team) and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Other groups providing in-kind donations included CAP Services, the Rotary Multicultural Center, FISC, Fox Valley Technical College, Appleton Public Library and ThedaCare.
Beginning in January there were library talks and discussion groups about Nickel and Dimed, diversity circles and poverty simulations to engage community members on what it’s like to live in poverty, and education programs on how people can better manage their finances. The first collaborative community read culminated with a visit by Ehrenreich to the Appleton Public Library for a public presentation on April 17, 2007.
The success and good will generated by the first Fox Cities Reads brought a consensus among the libraries that they had tapped into something special, and an agreement to work together to make the community read concept an annual event. In 2008 the featured another New York Times best-selling author, Alice Hoffman, and featured two of her works, Blackbird House and Green Angel. The University of Wisconsin - Fox Valley joined in sponsorship as did the Appleton Area School District and the brand new Fox Cities Book Festival. And Ms. Hoffman spoke at several venues in the Fox Valley, becoming a featured speaker as part of the first Fox Cities Book Festival.
In 2009 the Fox Cities Reads decided to expand its reader demographic, inviting award-winning author, humorist and musician Michael Perry to be its author, and featured three of his books, Off Main Street, Population 485, and Truck: A Love Story. We also expanded the number of speaking engagements to include all sponsoring libraries and UW-Fox. As an added treat, Michael and his band, The Long Beds, performed a concert at the Fox Cities PAC as part of the Fox Cities Book Festival.
New York Times best-selling author Leslie Kagen brought in huge crowds as the Fox Cities Reads 2010 author, which featured her award-winning novel Whistling in the Dark. Kagen’s presentations delighted her audiences as she spoke at multiple venues and again was featured as the Fox Cities Reads’ contributing author to the Fox Cities Book Festival.
Which brings us to the 2011 Fox Cities Reads author selection, Luis Alberto Urrea. This year we are offering two book selections by this national best-selling author: The Devil’s Highway and Into the Beautiful North. Urrea is the author of several highly acclaimed works of fiction and poetry and also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction. He is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Award, an American Book Award and a Kiriyama Prize. And one of Urrea’s featured books for this year’s Reads’ The Devil’s Highway, was selected as one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times Book Review, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune. Explore our website for greater details on this engaging author!