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“The Big Read” Returns To Pittsburgh

Claire P.

For the third straight year, the Community College of Allegheny County will dedicate a month to literacy.

This year, the Big Read work will be Carson McCullers’ The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter. Debuted to great acclaim in 1940, the novel focuses on the experiences of a deaf man in the racially charged atmosphere of the Depression-era South.

Beginning February 28 and going through the end of March, CCAC will start a month-long series of outreach events designed to promote literacy, reading, and community engagement. The Big Read In Pittsburgh will begin on the 28th with a free kick-off event at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

“We’re going to have speakers, we’re going to have a representative from the Pittsburgh mayor’s office, I mean this book really lends itself to lots of collaboration among our partners because it has a lot of rich themes, and so we’ll have the kick-off to get everybody on board in terms of what’s going to be coming up for March,” CCAC Big Read Program Director Barbara Evans said.

There will be multiple events during the Big Read, including book discussions and film screenings in libraries across the county

Evans said some program events will not be open to the public, such as CCAC staff visits to the Schuman Juvenile Detention Center and other facilities

“Those facilities are actually helping individuals that may be in a juvenile detention facility or in prison or trying to make their entry back into society,” Evans said. “And so we’ve been able to incorporate our programming for those audiences and they’ve been really, really successful because they’ve really been able to connect with the book and participate in the hands on activities.

Evans said the initiative has an amazing impact.

“People really respond to it in a real way,” Evans said. “For instance at Schuman, the first couple of years we went—myself and some staff and other volunteers were actually moved to tears because the young people that were in Schuman were able to make real connections to the literature and speak from their heart.”

The Big read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, provides communities nationwide with the opportunity to read, discuss, and celebrate one of a number of selections of literature. 

The kick off event for The Big Read begins at 6:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public, though interested attendees are encouraged to RSVP by February 21.