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The Big Read Launches Along the Georgia Coast

Feb 4 2014

by Anna Ferguson Hall

“So, just what is a girl with grit?” Ann Mason asks a group of curious readers in the Ida Hilton
Library meeting room. After a brief silence and moments of consideration, one participant speaks up.

“A girl with stick–to–itiveness,” she says, nodding her head. Across the room, a fellow participant chimes in: “A character who gumption, who knows what she’s after.”

Taking in the group’s discussion, Mason, who organized the reading event, then ponders, “Would we feel the same about these strong female characters if they were men? Would it make a difference?”

The morning conversation rolls on, as the group chat during the Girls with Grit in Lit book discussion, which Mason organized and led. A program associated with The Big Read, a national program sponsored on localized levels by community arts organizations, Girls with Grit in Lit offers in-depth discussions about female characters in literature who exemplify resilience and vigor.

This book discussion event at the Darien library branch is just one in a long series of events lined up for the annual The Big Read program in coastal Georgia.

Now in its seventh year in the region, The Big Read book for the 2014 season is “True Grit,” the classic western tale from author Charles Portis, which recounts a young woman’s endeavor to avenge her father’s murder. When launching the annual The Big Read campaign along the Georgia coast, Heather Heath was keen to keep in mind, not only the central story of this year’s selection, but also its main character.

“I just can’t say enough how much I love this book,” said Heath, executive director of the Golden Isles Arts and Humanities Association, which sponsors the reading-centric program. “It’s simply just so, so good. This is a book that can gross all readers preferred genres and touch a wide range of people.”

The lead character in the novel, Mattie Ross, presents a heightened sense of self-awareness and courage, making her one of the most admired female characters in literature, especially in a field of writing known more for horse-riding cowboys and tough, gun-totting men. Tapping into the character’s youthful energy and strong quest for truth makes the story a must-read for both adolescents and adults, Heath said, adding that free copies of the book are available in area libraries, schools and at the Golden Isles Arts and Humanities headquarters in downtown Brunswick.

Since fueling the charge for The Big Read in 2007 in the Golden Isles, Heath has watched as the reading campaign took hold of residents. Every year, the program has grown, with more events added and more community support generated.

Stretching from the start of January to March 8, the various events associated with The Big Read include programs in McIntosh, Glynn and Camden counties, ranging from library workshops to historical demonstrations and two film series.

For younger readers, The Big Read offers book options for middle school and elementary school aged students. Middle schoolers can delve into “Divergent,” a futuristic tale of written by Veronica Roth, while elementary school readers are encouraged to read “Armadillo Rodeo,” by Jan Brett.

“With The Big Read, our goal is to encourage the entire community to come together and read, no matter your age,” Heath said. “Over the years, this program has gained a large following in our community with more and more people taking part every year. I don’t see this program ending anytime in the near future. People love it, and we love putting it on. It’s always something to look forward to.”

For a complete schedule of events, visit the Golden Isles Arts and Humanities website at goldenislesarts.org

(Note: This article was originally published for the Jan. 30, 2014 edition of The Darien News.)

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