For Immediate Release
Mayor’s Press Office
Maggie Killackey Jurgensen
Chicago Public Library
GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN SELECTED AS SPRING 2007 ONE BOOK, ONE CHICAGO
March 13, 2007
Mayor Richard M. Daley announced today that James Baldwin’s novel Go Tell It on the Mountain will be the 12th selection for Chicago’s citywide book club, One Book, One Chicago.
“This is an especially good pick, because James Baldwin was one of the finest American writers of the 20th century,” Daley said at a news conference at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State. Street. “This is an opportunity for Chicago’s reading public to become better acquainted with a very influential writer, who used the power of fiction to describe the African American experience during the 20th century. Even though the book was published more than 50 years ago, it explores issues that will resonate with today’s readers – issues of racism, religion and father-son relationships. I think it’s going to lead to some interesting discussions among people of all ages and backgrounds.”
Go Tell It on the Mountain takes readers inside the lives and thoughts of an African American family in the early part of the 20th century. It explores the role of the church in the lives of its characters as a source of inspiration and repression, but most importantly as community. Named in 2005 by Time magazine as one of 100 best English-language novels published since 1923, this autobiographical novel is a beautiful illustration of soul searching, faith, guilt and family expectations.
Like John Grimes, the novel’s central character, James Baldwin grew up in Harlem with a strict stepfather who was a Christian minister. Baldwin based this novel on his experiences as a young man, including a religious awakening he had at the age of 14 and his subsequent training to become a preacher.
“As our 12th One Book, One Chicago selection, Go Tell It on the Mountain deals with challenging themes and prompts readers to ask themselves tough questions,” commented Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey. “For more than 100 years, the Chicago Public Library has been a place where people can learn, grow and discuss the issues of the day with neighbors. One Book, One Chicago builds on that tradition by introducing a wonderful piece of literature and giving people an outlet to share their thoughts and opinions.”
More than 2,000 copies of Go Tell It on the Mountain will be available at all 79 locations of the Chicago Public Library. Additionally, 30 DVDs of the 1985 American Playhouse Production of Go Tell It on the Mountain and nine DVDs of the documentary, James Baldwin, the Price of a Ticket, have been ordered for selected branches. At six Chicago Public Library branches, patrons can check out a “Book Club in a Bag,” which contains eight copies of the novel and resource guides.
More than 70 chapters of the Mayor Daley’s Book Club for Chicago Public high school students will take part in One Book, One Chicago by reading Go Tell It on the Mountain during the spring semester and participating in moderated discussions with club facilitators, who are high school teachers and school librarians. Many book clubs will also plan unique programming and displays inspired by themes in the novel.
A panel discussion, Revisiting an American Icon: Interpreting James Baldwin’s Voice and Vision for the Twenty-First Century, will be hosted by DePaul University on Wednesday, April 11, 6:30 p.m. Faculty from DePaul will explore issues such as: what Baldwin’s work meant to readers when it was published; what Baldwin’s life means to readers today; and how events since the time of the civil rights movement have redefined issues and themes represented in Go Tell It on the Mountain.
On Monday, April 16 at the Harold Washington Library Center, ensemble members from Steppenwolf Theatre Company will perform dramatic readings from Go Tell It on the Mountain accompanied by the Pilgrim Baptist Church Choir performing hymns mentioned throughout the novel. Dr. Danielle Allen, Dean of Humanities at the University of Chicago, will discuss Baldwin’s life and the themes of the novel.
On Wednesday, April 25 at 6 p.m., Jabari Asim will discuss his book, The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t and Why, at the Harold Washington Library Center. Asim explores the root of this controversial word and its 400-year history in American rhetoric.
DePaul University will once again offer Chicago’s One Book: Issues and Perspectives, a ten-week, graduate-level course beginning March 28. For more information, including course tuition, visit the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program website at www.depaul.edu/~mals or call (773) 325-7840. On Monday, April 30, at 6:30 p.m., DePaul will host a screening and discussion of The Dream Keepers, part four of the PBS series I’ll Make Me a World. This film explores how James Baldwin epitomizes an era in America’s history and culture.
For the first time, the Chicago Public Library will partner with Northwestern University to celebrate the life and work of Baldwin through One Book, One Northwestern, a campus-wide book club inspired by One Book, One Chicago.
This summer, Northwestern University will distribute Go Tell It on the Mountain to all incoming students and invite them to join in a month-long electronic conversation in August. The summer discussion will be facilitated by Harvey Young, a professor of Performance Studies, and will ask students to consider various ways in which Baldwin’s work can be read. To involve the entire university community as well as interested citizens from the surrounding communities, Northwestern plans six weeks of lectures, performances, readings, art installations and related classes focusing on Go Tell It on the Mountain, which will take place during the fall semester.
Discussions will be held throughout April at Chicago Public Library branches, Loyola University, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Gerber/Hart Library, Harold Washington College and the Great Books Foundation. Programs are free and open to the public. For more information, visit chicagopubliclibrary.org or call (312) 747-4010.
To celebrate five successful years of One Book, One Chicago, the Chicago Public Library invited fine binders and book artists from around the world to interpret previous One Book, One Chicago selections through the art of book binding. One Book, Many Interpretations is a special exhibit that showcases 47, one-of-a-kind books that will be on display through April 22 at the Harold Washington Library Center. The exhibit also describes the history of the One Book, One Chicago program.
One Book, One Chicago began in the fall of 2001, to encourage Chicagoans to read the same book at the same time and discuss a great piece of literature with friends and neighbors. Since its inception, thousands of Chicagoans have participated in book discussion groups, lectures, dramatic readings and cultural events.
Previous selections have been To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Night by Elie Wiesel, My Ántonia by Willa Cather, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek, In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.
One Book, One Chicago is presented by the Chicago Public Library with generous support from Bank of America and the Chicago Public Library Foundation.
The Chicago Public Library is composed of the Harold Washington Library Center, two regional libraries and 76 neighborhood branches. The Library offers rich resources of books, DVDs, audio books and more, provides free access to the Internet and WiFi in all of its locations, as well as free public programs for children, teens and adults.
The Harold Washington Library Center, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library and Conrad Sulzer Regional Library are open seven days a week, the remaining 76 branch libraries are open six days a week and patrons can access all of the libraries’ collections online 24 hours a day. For more information, please visit the website at chicagopubliblibrary.org.