An upcoming program hosted by the Pennington Public Library hopes to strengthen and build the Hopewell-Pennington community, with the help of “True Grit” by Charles Portis.
The library is one of 79 organizations nationwide to receive a $5,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to assist in funding the Small Town, Big Read program, which is set to take place from January to March 2019.
The program involves one book, with the hopes of community members reading and discussing it with each other, as well as attending community events inspired by the culture and themes depicted in it.
The library’s Big Read committee chose the novel from a list of about 30 because of its appeal to a wide audience.
“The book has very interesting themes of moral justice and vengeance; it’s an exciting story,” said Kathleen Nash, the head of the Big Read committee. “It’s going to be something you can share with your neighbor who you may not have something in common with before, but you’re both sharing the fact that you read this book.”
As part of the program, the library is required to work with other organizations as community partners. Some of the community partners include the Hopewell Valley Historical Society, Howell Living History Farm, Hopewell Valley Arts Council and more.
“True Grit,” which was published in 1968 and takes place in the American West in the 1870s, tells the story of a 14-year-old Mattie Ross, who plans to avenge her father’s death with the help of a US Marshal and Texas Ranger. Two Hollywood film adaptations have been made based on the book, as well; one in 1969 and another in 2010.
The community events, Kim Ha, the library’s director, and Nash said, will include book discussions, keynote speakers — such as Larry Kidder of the Hopewell Valley Historical Society, who will speak about Hopewell-Pennington history of the 1870s — movie screenings and participating in 1870-esque activities at Howell Living History Farm.
For residents interested in performance art, the Pennington Studio for Dance and Creative Arts is scheduled to perform dances that reflect the novel’s underlying themes of courage and determination.
“[The committee thought] broadly — what are the interests in our area and what would bring somebody into this program?” Nash said.
Nash and Ha hope that the program will not only generate discussion at the events, but also out in the community and amongst neighbors.
“There will be a postcard in each book, and the postcard will talk about the program and encourage readers to sign their name in the book and pass the book on,” Ha said. “By a certain date, we encourage the person who has the book to drop the postcard in the mail so we have an idea of how often the book has been passed around.”
Ha emphasized the importance of face-to-face discussion, which this program aims to bring among community members of the close-knit Hopewell-Pennington area.
“You have those online forums, but it’s a whole different story to have people together,” she said. “Having that face-to-face dialogue makes a big difference. That’s one of our goals as a library: foster community discussion.”