Fresno County Public Library received a grant of $14,700 last fall from Cal Humanities (formerly the California Council for the Humanities) to host a reading and discussion series based upon the book Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. Fresno County is one of 51 public library jurisdictions across the state of California receiving grants as part of Cal Humanities Searching for Democracy initiative, designed to animate public conversation on the nature and meaning of democracy. Through a wide range of public programs leading into the 2012 elections and beyond, students, families and people from all walks of life will explore – online and off – what discoveries and lessons about democracy lie in works of fiction and nonfiction, provocative cultural exhibits and public conversations.
As part of the Searching for Democracy initiative, California Reads is a statewide reading and discussion program developed by Cal Humanities in collaboration with the California Center for the Book and with the support of the California State Library. Five books, chosen through a public nomination process for their examination of the theme of democracy, will be discussed in every region of the state in a wide range of settings (libraries, book festivals and fairs, nonprofits and cultural organizations, bookstores, and educational institutions).
The Library chose Farewell to Manzanar for its California Reads project because of the relevance of the book's subject matter to local history. Fresno County is the only area in California that had two assembly centers holding thousands of local Japanese Americans during World War II before they were sent on to permanent internment camps. Farewell to Manzanar is a compelling memoir about the Japanese American internment experience, as seen through the eyes of a young girl, and a haunting reminder of how our civil rights are at risk in moments of crisis.
California Reads events will kick off on August 11 with the annual Shinzen Garden Toro Nagashi lantern ceremony in Woodward Park. Other featured events include Q&A with Farewell to Manzanar author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston on August 24, discussion with "Art of Gaman" curator Delphine Hirasuna on August 18, and a performance of popular 1940s-era music by Grateful Crane Ensemble on September 15. Also from August through September, the Fresno Art Museum will host an exhibit of historical internment camp photography by Ansel Adams followed by a civil rights panel discussion. A companion exhibit of internment photography by Dorothea Lange will tour branch libraries. Poetry readings, reader's theater, film screenings, and a possible bus tour to the Manzanar National Historic Site are also planned.
California Reads programs are made possible with support from Cal Humanities in partnership with California Center for the Book. For additional information, visit www.fresnolibrary.org later this summer or call 600-6227 or 600-6274.