By Matt Krueger firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted: Saturday, November 22, 2014
The “A Tale For Three Counties” community reading project will take a hard left turn in 2015, veering into more adult territory and leaving teenage issues in the rearview mirror.
The choice of Laura McBride’s “We Are Called To Rise” for the 13th annual one-book program is a vast departure from this year’s selection, “The Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson Walker.
“Miracles” was speculative fiction about what happens when the Earth’s rotation slows. Readers see the story through the eyes of a 12-year-old narrator, Julia.
“Rise,” however, contains multiple viewpoints from four main characters: an 8-year-old son of Albanian refugees, a 53-year-old woman dealing with a dissolving marriage and a troubled son in the military, a social worker navigating the dark corners of Las Vegas, and an injured soldier. The themes are much more mature, which prompted the “Tale” committee to alter is selection criteria a bit.
“This is an adult book,” said Leslie DeLooze, a librarian at Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia and convener of “Tale” since its inception. “We cannot recommend it for younger teens.”
One of the project’s selection criteria is that the book should be “accessible to teen and emerging readers.” That is not the case this time, and it caused great debate among the committee members.
“The book does have more mature themes this year, unlike some of our previous choices, which were either teen literature or adult literature with clear crossover appeal to teens,” said DeLooze, who also called the book a “gripping” read. “We know that some readers will be pleased to have a choice set squarely in adult literature, but we are also aware that the choice limits interest for high school classrooms.”
The first chapter of “Rise” focuses on Avis, who, at 53, is looking to breath some life back into her marriage by surprising her husband, Jim, with a night of passion. But as she stands naked in front of her long-neglected “naughty-underwear drawer,” she shockingly finds a gun. Jim also chooses that moment to confess to an affair.
Clearly, this is a bold separation from “Miracles,” which took a more innocent approach in describing middle-school Julia’s first love with skateboarding Seth.
“It wasn’t exactly a deliberate move, but we do look for variety in our choices,” said Peggy Parker, director of Perry Public Library and one of the staunchest proponents for “Rise” on the “Tale” committee. “We’ve had several books with historical settings, and last year’s was speculative fiction. It seemed right this year to go with a contemporary novel. We find that readers have their favorite genres and favorite ‘Tale’ books, and I know this year’s choice will have that kind of following as well.”
The committee also broke away from its tradition of selecting books set in small towns. “Rise” occurs in Las Vegas, a city of 583,000 people. That’s 39 times the size of Batavia.
“I think it surprised many on the committee that a book set in the outskirts of Las Vegas would have so many aspects in common with books set anywhere else in our country — family, returning veterans, generations within immigrant families, and challenges faced by school personnel and social workers are only a few of the factors covered in this multi-faceted novel. Readers from many backgrounds will find much to think about and discuss.”
The author similarly said that the notion of community is at the heart of the novel.
“I think that ‘We Are Called To Rise’ will allow readers to talk about a lot of different sorts of contemporary issues,” said McBride when reached by email last week. “How do we form communities? “What do they mean to us? I suspect Las Vegas is a very different kind of place than the three counties area, and yet we may well share similar ideas about what our homes mean to us. I know many longtime Las Vegans who most cherish Las Vegas for its tightly-knit communities.”
The 13th annual “Tale” weekend is scheduled for March 26-28.
Courtesy of Batavia Newspapers Corporation