NEW ALBANY — A new program is bringing together Southern Indiana libraries and organizations through one book.
The Arts Alliance of Southern Indiana is collaborating with local partners to launch the SoIN Big Read, a regional community reading event focused on the book “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros.
The Floyd County Library, Jeffersonville Township Public Library, Harrison County Public Library, Jeffersonville Arts Commission and Community Action of Southern Indiana are participating in the program.
Brian Bell, executive director of the Arts Alliance of Southern Indiana, said the goal is to “actively engage our community across all of Southern Indiana.” SoIN Big Read will be an annual program.
The program continues through the end of March. More than a thousand copies of the book are available from participating organizations, and books will be given out free at various locations throughout the area.
Programming and discussions related to the book will take place over the next few months.
Each copy of “The House on Mango Street” handed out through the SoIN Big Read program includes discussion questions for readers.
The novel, published in 1984, is a coming-of-age story featuring a series of vignettes and focuses on the experiences of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago.
Bell said the book “approaches the complexities of living life and going through struggles of social, cultural and gender challenges.”
“It’s a book for everyone, and we have chosen this title because of its broad spectrum of relatability to a diverse community,” he said. “The sharing of stories that expose struggle and aspirations in everyday life connects us and strengthens the community.”
Bell said the first distribution center for the books will be at Harvest Homecoming, where the Floyd County Library will hand out books at its booth this week. Other distribution centers will later be announced in Harrison and Clark counties.
Melissa Merida, director of the Floyd County Library, said she is excited to “bring this classic novel to our communities and more importantly, discussions of what it means to grow up as a diverse individual in a community that may not share the diversity.”
“The book was selected because of its detail to home and what does it mean to be home and be in a community and find your place where others surround you and support you, and there are some beautiful themes throughout the book,” Merida said.
Jeffersonville Public Art Administrator Emily Dippie said SoIN Big Read is a “beautiful collaboration” between local organizations, and the Jeffersonville Public Art Commission is leading two community projects tied to the program and the book, including the “Hashtag Tree” program that will begin in the next few weeks.
“In each one of our local communities, we will identify a tree in our town that will represent community experience,” she said. “Our plan is to put a giant orange ribbon around it and let people know that this tree is a place that you can go and photograph, video, hashtag yourself at to represent our community.”
“You can read, you can play, you can represent our community in whatever way you want to visually express yourself, and then we would encourage you to document that and put it on social media with the hashtag “SoINBigRead,” so we can see all sorts of expressions of our community under one central tree,” she said.
Another project will include the “Dreams and Anchors” art installation, which will take place in the spring to wrap up the SoIN Big Read program.
“This is an image that runs throughout the book,” Dippie said. “We will be enlisting local artists, local art students, local art teachers of all varieties to paint bricks. On these bricks, we will then tie balloons to represent our dreams, and then we have a huge one-day art installation to represent the imagery of the book.”
Further details about the program and the schedule for the events will be released on the soinbigread.com website, which will be “an ever-evolving, ever-changing website,” she said.