Big Read takes up 'Grapes of Wrath'

Posted September 14, 2008 3:19 p.m. EDT
Updated September 14, 2008 4:38 p.m. EDT

— A campaign to get North Carolinians reading more will focus on John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," a Depression-era novel that organizers believe reflects hardships in the modern-day South.

The Big Read campaign kicked off Saturday with a festival at the Rock of Ages Winery in Hurdle Mills. A jazz band played Depression-era music, antique cars and tractors went on display, and expert Steinbeck scholar Sudan Shillinglaw spoke.

Organizers will bring together residents of three counties to read and talk about "The Grapes of Wrath" over the next six weeks.

Big Read project leader Lionell Parker said the novel describes economic and social difficulties that are common in today's rural South.

"Like the Joads, many of North Carolina's small and rural communities find themselves at a crossroads and are in the process of rebuilding society by creating a hopeful but unclear future," Parker said.

Events include book and food drives, photo exhibits, film screenings and book discussions. They will take place in Orange, Person and Durham counties.

The Big Read is an effort to reverse a decline in literacy among Americans and bring back reading to a central place in American culture. The program is an initiative by National Endowment of the Arts, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest.