With headlines and graphic images underscoring recent racial unrest and injustices, Wilton Library has chosen to explore the topic of racism and race relations for Wilton Reads 2021, its community-wide reading program. The library will again be collaborating with the Wilton School District to facilitate discussions and conversations throughout the community on all levels.
The book selected for Wilton Reads 2021 by the library is Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir, by Natasha Trethewey.
The announcement of the program’s 2021 topic and book selection was made at Thursday evening’s (Jan. 21) Board of Education meeting by Elaine Tai-Lauria, Executive Director of Wilton Library, and Fran Kompar, Director of Digital Learning, Wilton Public Schools.
This is the 15th year for the Wilton Reads program, which welcomes all of Wilton to join in an extended community-wide conversation delving deeply into one book and one topic. Each year the library plans a host of programs around the book selection that will include book discussions, films, music appreciation, historical context programming, and providing educational resources for personal exploration.
In 2021, much of the programming will occur virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As with previous Wilton Reads collaborations, the school district participates by choosing age-appropriate reading selections and activities for the various schools.
Tai-Lauria credited Lauren McLaughlin, Assistant Director of Patron Services, for the selection and securing the author talk.
“Much in the way we brought the community together to discuss the Holocaust [for Wilton Reads 2019] now it is time to tackle another difficult conversation – that of racism,” Tai-Lauria explained. “The topic and book choices will allow us to explore the subject matter via educational experiences and constructive dialogues among community members, thereby fostering a deeper understanding of the issues.”
Dr. Kevin Smith, Superintendent of Wilton Public Schools, applauded Wilton Library for advancing the conversations around the important and timely topic of race.
“With Wilton residents showing their interest in this issue by participating in demonstrations and discussions this past spring, it is only natural that the schools should take part in the dialogue with the greater community,” he said.
Author Trethewey is a United States Poet Laureate (2012-2014) and a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. In her memoir, the author chronicles her life growing up as a “child of miscegenation” in Mississippi, and how her life was impacted by her mother’s death during a horrific crime in 1985.
According to the HarperCollins Publishers website:
“At age 19, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became. With penetrating insight and a searing voice that moves from the wrenching to the elegiac, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey explores this profound experience of pain, loss, and grief as an entry point into understanding the tragic course of her mother’s life and the way her own life has been shaped by a legacy of fierce love and resilience… Memorial Drive is a compelling and searching look at a shared human experience of sudden loss and absence but also a piercing glimpse at the enduring ripple effects of white racism and domestic abuse.”
Memorial Drive has garnered awards and accolades including becoming a New York Times Bestseller, A New York Times Notable Book, A Washington Post Top 10 Best Book of 2020, an NPR Best Book of 2020, a Slate Best Book of 2020, a USA Today Best Book of 2020, and an Amazon Best Book of 2020. Even President Barack Obama has chosen it as one of his favorite books of 2020.
The Wilton Reads program will culminate with an author visit by Natasha Trethewey on Thursday, April 15 at 6 p.m. using a virtual platform. The author will be recognized with a Grodin Family Fine Writers award during her virtual talk. Elissa and Charles Grodin are the sponsors of the Grodin Family Fine Writers Awards for the library’s Wilton Reads programs.
Free copies of Memorial Drive will be given away in March by the library thanks to Fairfield County Bank (the giveaway date will be announced shortly). Books and audiobooks can be borrowed through the library’s online catalog and can be picked up at the library’s Drive-Thru window when available; eBooks and eAudiobooks can be downloaded to mobile devices through the Libby/Overdrive app. People may email for help with this Digital Library service.
Full details of the library’s Wilton Reads 2021 programming will be available on the library’s website in February. The school district’s programming details may be found by visiting the Wilton School District website in February.
This is the 15th season of Wilton Reads. The program originated with a reading of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. A complete list of all the Wilton Reads selections can be found online.
The Village Market is the sponsor of the virtual author talk. The media sponsor of Wilton Reads is GOOD Morning Wilton.