Upcoming programs at Pennington Library focus on Vietnamese immigration journey


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The Big Read is a community-wide event that encourages as many people as possible to read the same book and participate in a wide variety of events from Feb. 26 through April, such as book discussions, film screenings, and other themed programming.

Copies of “The Best We Could Do” will be distributed for free at the Pennington Public Library, 30 N. Main St. “The Best We Could Do” is an intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, author Thi Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.

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“The Best We Could Do” themed events include:


Uyen “Winn” Khuong, executive director of Action Together New Jersey, will give the Big Road keynote address at 3 p.m. Feb. 26 via Zoom. Khuong will share vivid memories of her own experiences as a refugee from Vietnam in 1980. Registration required at Penningtonlibrary.org/2022keynotewinn/

History of the Graphic Novel — More Than Superheroes and Spandex will be held via Zoom at 3 p.m. March 6. Explore the graphic novel in its many different forms, from the typical superhero comics to the experimental. Registration required at Penningtonlibrary.org/2022graphicnovelhistory/

Storytelling in the Graphic Novel and the Oral Tradition Workshop will be held at 7 p.m. March 10 via Zoom. Join in this interactive presentation to consider how the oral tradition and the graphic novel share storytelling techniques that bring a narrative to life. Workshop leader, the Rev. Joanne Epply-Schmidt, has performed and taught the art of storytelling in workshops and programs in schools, colleges, seminaries, churches, and retreat centers in the U.S. and Canada. Registration required at Penningtonlibrary.org/2022StorytellingGraphicNovel/


A panel discussion on immigration experiences in Hopewell Valley will be held at 3 p.m. March 20 in partnership with the Hopewell Valley Historical Society and Hopewell Museum. Location to be determined. Join a conversation on how local families with a primary, secondary or tertiary immigrant experiences move through the notion of the “American Dream.” Facilitator is Ian Burrow. Panelists will be Dr. David Angwenyi, founder/CEO of Global Connections Kenya and founder of Hopewell-Keroka Alliance; Kim T. Ha, director of the Pennington Public Library; Ellyn Ito, executive director, Seeds to Sew; Mikaela Levons, director of Stakeholder Relations, Equal Justice USA; Hopewell Township Committeewoman Uma Purandare, founder of the Marathi School; and Colby Cedar Smith, author of “Call Me Athena.” Registration required at Penningtonlibrary.org/2022bigreadpaneldiscussion


Keynote speaker Thi Bui, author and illustrator of “The Best We Could Do,” will speak at 6:30 p.m. April 5 via Zoom. Co-sponsored by the Miami Book Fair, Hopewell Valley Regional School District and Pennington Public Library. Registration is required at Penningtonlibrary.org/2022keynotewinn/



Make a Mini Comic or ‘Zine from 1-4 p.m. Feb. 27 at Hopewell Valley Central High School. Materials provided. Recommended for ages 12 and up. Registration required at Penningtonlibrary.org/2022makecomics/



A Kantha quilting workshop will be held from 1-4 p.m. March 9 at Pennington Quilt Works. Make your own hand-stitched Kantha cloth sample that can be used as a table mat. The session is free. All supplies will be provided by Pennington Quilt Works. Open to all. No experience is necessary. To register, call 609-737-4321 or visit penningtonquilts.com. For more information, visit Penningtonlibrary.org/2022kantha/



A lantern making workshop will be held from 2-4 p.m. March 12 at the Pennington United Methodist Church, in partnership with the Hopewell Valley Arts Council. In this family-friendly workshop, make your own lantern to celebrate the upcoming full moon on March 18. Also, learn about the history of the lantern. Recommended for ages 6 and up. Supplies provided. Registration required at Penningtonlibrary.org/lanternmaking/



A guided autobiography workshop, Our Stories of Immigration, will be held from 1-4:30 p.m. March 13 at Hopewell Valley Central High School. Registration is required at Penningtonlibrary.org/2022gab/


A Vietnamese cooking class will be held from 6-8:30 p.m. April 2 via Zoom. Chef My will guide participants through a hands-on online cooking class to prepare two Vietnamese dishes: Bánh Xèo (a savory crepe/pancake) and Chuoi Chien (fried bananas). Limited space. Participation fee is $5. Registration is required at Penningtonlibrary.org/2022cookingclass/


Film Screenings and Discussions


An immigration-themed film screening and discussion on “The Visitor” (2007) will be held at 7 p.m. March 3 at The Hopewell Theater. When a professor travels to New York for a lecture, he is stunned to find illegal immigrants living in his apartment. In the first of a series of tests of the heart, Walter reluctantly allows the couple to stay with him. Registration required at Penningtonlibrary.org/thevisitor/



An immigration-themed film screening and discussion of “Brooklyn” (2015) will be held at 7 p.m. March 16 at Pennington United Methodist Church. A young Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn,where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within. Registration required at Penningtonlibrary.org/brooklyn/


A family film screening and craft for “An American Tail” will be held at 2 p.m. March 19 at Pennington United Methodist Church. While emigrating to the United States, a young Russian mouse gets separated from his family and must locate them while trying to survive in a new country. Registration is required at Penningtonlibrary.org/americantail/

A documentary screening and discussion on “The Boys Who Said No!” (2020) will be held at 7 p.m. March 24 and 27. This is the first documentary film to profile the young men and women who actively opposed the military draft in order to end the Vietnam War. Registration for the discussion and streaming information are available at Penningtonlibrary.org/boyssaidno/



An immigration-themed film screening and discussion of “Foreign Letters” (2012) will be held at 3 p.m. April 3 at Hopewell Valley Central High School. Ellie is a homesick 12-year-old Israeli girl who recently moved to the U.S. Life brightens when she meets Thuy, a Vietnamese refugee her age. Though they don’t seem to have much in common, trust slowly builds between them as they teach each other about growing up in America. Registration is required at Penningtonlibrary.org/foreignletters/



Book Discussions


A companion book discussion on “The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen will be held via Zoom at 7 p.m. March 22. Registration is required is at Penningtonlibrary.org/sympathizer/


A book discussion on “The Best We Could Do” by Thi Bui will be held at 7 p.m. March 29 via Zoom. Registration is required at Penningtonlibrary.org/event/bestwecoulddozoomdiscussion/



The Pennington Library Adult Book Club Discussion on “The Best We Could Do” by Thi Bui will be held at 2 p.m. April 7 via Zoom. Registration is required at www.penningtonlibrary.org/event/adult-book-discussion-group-18/2022-04-07/

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