Westporters like to read. Hardcovers and paperbacks; on Kindles, iPads, even iPhones — we’ve often got our noses buried in books.
Once a year, many of us do it together.
That’s the premise behind “Westport READS.” Every January since 2001, the Westport Library picks a book for the entire town to read — and think about. There are school discussions; clergy weave it into sermons, and the Library plans special “Westport Reads”-themed activities for an entire month. The idea is to strengthen the community through the shared experience of a book or author.
This year’s selection is Bettyville. George Hodgman’s powerful memoir tackles his identity as a gay man, writer and son, whose complicated relationship with his mother comes to a head when he leaves New York to care for her in his Missouri hometown.
A keynote presentation by Hodgman himself at the Library (Thursday, January 19, 7 p.m.) is the capstone of this year’s “WestportREADS.” But there’s much more in store.
A screening and discussion of the movie “In & Out” — in which a high school drama teacher questions his sexuality, in the midst of preparing for his wedding to a woman — is set for Saturday, January 28 (4 p.m., Town Hall, in conjunction with the Westport Cinema Initiative).
The month-long program incorporates events connected to other themes in Bettyville too. For example, to honor the role an adopted dog plays in the book, Westport Animal Shelter Advocates showcases their work — and sponsors a pet food drive (Sunday, January 29, 3 p.m.)
To celebrate the kindnesses shown in the memoir, artist/author Elaine Clayton hosts a workshop for artists of all ages, to “draw, collage and color kindness” (Wednesday, January 11, 4:30 p.m.).
Several companion books have been selected for younger audiences. I’ll Give You the Sun is an award-winning story of first love, family, loss and betrayal. Lily and Dunkin (for middle grades) and George (for upper elementary schoolchildren) focus on how and why children label themselves. Red, meanwhile, is a light-hearted picture book about a crayon with an identity crisis.
All month long, an exhibit in the Riverwalk hallway looks at our town and its people during the 1970s. There’s an “identity wordle” (visual depiction of text) in the MakerSpace, and an artist-in-residence challenge to show 2 parts of your personality (featuring a how-to family workshop today — Saturday, January 7 — at 2 p.m.).
Want more? Check out these other WestportREADS events:
- Sunday, January 8 (2 p.m.): Discuss Bettyville at Barnes & Noble.
- Sunday, January 8 (2:30 p.m.): Bring a grandparent or older friend or relative to make a keepsake book (Grades 1 and up).
- Tuesday, January 10 (2 p.m.): “The Music Man” classic movie — plus a Shake Shack custard.
- Tuesday, January 10 (7 p.m.): Experts discuss the emotional, legal and practical issues you might face as your parents age, whether they live close by or far away.
- Wednesday, January 11 (7 p.m.): Nancy Moore — who uses art to express her thoughts about gender identity, in loving response to her transgender son — shows and discusses her work.
- Thursday, January 14 (2 p.m.): Dr. Mark Schenker discusses the themes raised in Bettyville.
- Tuesday, January 17 (11 a.m.): A discussion of the book at the library, in partnership with the Senior Center.
- Tuesday, January 17 (2 p.m.): The past merges with the present in the hit movie “Sunday in the Park with George.”
- Saturday, January 21 (1 p.m.): Robin McHaelen, director of True Colors, leads a family-friendly, free-wheeling discussion on today’s changing gender norms. Light lunch and refreshments too!
- Sunday, January 22 (2 p.m.): Discussion of I’ll Give You the Sun, at Barnes & Noble.
- Tuesday, January 24 (2 p.m.): Showing of the 1971 movie “The Boy Friend.”
- Thursday, January 26 (7 p.m.): Discussion of I’ll Give you the Sun.
- Thursday, January 26 (7 p.m.): Neighbors & Newcomers and PageTurners discuss Bettyville.
- Monday, January 30 (6 p.m.): Discussion of Lily and Dunkin.
- Tuesday, January 31 (2 p.m.): Showing of the movie “Funny Girl.”
That’s a lot. It seems there’s something for everyone.
And you read all about it here.
(For more information on WestportREADS, click here. To schedule a facilitator for a book discussion, email email@example.com.)