From April to mid-May, the Milwaukee Public Library in Milwaukee, Wisconsin hosted NEA Big Read in their community with Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies. Programming included a celebration of Caribbean culture and cuisine, lessons on how to dance the merengue and bachata, workshops on memoir writing and storytelling, and a Skype visit from the author. Below are some highlights from their very successful Big Read.
Panadanza dancers perform Caribbean dances at the Milwaukee Reads kickoff event. Photo by Grace Fuhr.
Milwaukee Public Library found that the most successful events offered included a hands-on component. Events that asked attendees to create their own art, rather than just consuming it, were the most popular. Attendees learned dances of the Dominican Republic, wrote poems, shared stories, and even created art while discussing the book.
Art created by book discussion participants. Photo by Joshua Feist.
The community’s response to In the Time of the Butterflies was overwhelmingly positive. Milwaukee residents appreciated the chance to read and discuss a book with strong female characters, and to explore the history and culture of the Caribbean. The themes of the book inspired discussion, and encouraged participants to share their own unique experiences.
“This book is perfect for the Big Read–such an amazing voice and important story. The library has truly become the center of the city. The best gathering place!”