Saturday, June 13, 2009

Listen to The program on-line

Listen to the radio broadcast of the Big Read - D.C. book THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER (available as an audio guide on CD). The nationl Big Read website also includes a link to a transcript of the radio program, and a link to an iTunes download. Total time is 28:58.

Carson McCullers 's The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter radio show is narrated by former NEA chair Dana Gioia and features Blake Hazard, D.C.'s own E. Ethelbert Miller, P.J. O'Rourke, Mary-Louise Parker, Gore Vidal, and Jim White.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's a Wrap! 2009 Big Read - D.C.

The month of May ended with a grand finish for the 2009 Big Read - D.C. as the newly published poets from Coolidge High School and Model Secondary School for the Deaf shared their poems and experiences from the writing/publishing workshop leading up to the publication of "BRIDGES". Students signed copies of their book in the Langston Room at Busboys and Poets, named for Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes who was discovered while working as a busboy in a Cleveland Park hotel.

Teachers, parents, school administrators, and friends celebrated the young writers' achievements during this book launch. The poems published in the volume reflect themes of this year's city book THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers. "BRIDGES: Hearing and Deaf Students Connect Through Poetry" is a Book-in-a-Day project, a hands-on writing and publishing program created by poet and publisher Kwame Alexander. It was the perfect "Final Chapter" for the 2009 Big Read - D.C.

Copies of BRIDGES are available from the Humanities Council of Washington, DC. The price is $10/per book plus $5 for postage. Checks and money orders are preferred.

Write to: Humanities Council of Washington, DC (attn: Bridges), 925 U Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001; or call 202-387-8391.

For on-line orders, visit

And stay tuned. An announcement will be made about the 2010 Big Read later this month.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

2009 Big Read - D.C. Final Chapter - "BRIDGES"

Students from Calvin Coolidge High School and the Model Secondary School for the Deaf will release their book, BRIDGES: Hearing and Deaf Students Connect Through Poetry, Friday, May 29 at 6 PM at Busboys and Poets, 14th & V Streets, NW.

This year, the Big Read – D.C. introduced a landmark literacy program to these two very distinguished schools. Washington, DC’s Calvin Coolidge High School and the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) participated in a project called Book-in-a-Day. Over the course of two six-hour workshops, the students worked together diligently to write and publish a book of their poetry. The workshop is the creation of poet and publisher Kwame Alexander.

This will be the final program for the 2009 Big Read - D.C. The event will also include the teachers and principals from Coolidge and MSSD; Joy Ford Austin, Executive Director of the Humanities Council of Washington, DC; Gloria Nauden, Executive Director of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities; Michon Boston, Project Director for the 2009 Big Read - D.C.; and Kwame Alexander of Book-in-a-Day.

Students will read and sign copies of the book for the final program. There is no admission fee for the event. The price of the book is $10.

For information, call 202-387-8391 or email dcbigread@wdchu

Thursday, May 21, 2009

May 21 is a Big Day for the Big Read - D.C.

Today is another big day for the Big Read - D.C. At 10 AM this morning, David Kipen (Director of Literature for the NEA), Rev. Derrick Harkins (Senior Pastor of 19th Street Baptist Church), and I will be on WPFW for a live discussion of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter on "On the Margin" with host Josephine Reed.

This afternoon students from the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, Coolidge, and Roosevelt high Schools will be completing their Book-In-A-Day workshop with Kwame Alexander. Over the several weeks this group of deaf and hearing young writers have been working on a collection of poetry taken from the themes of the city book. Kwame Alexander, who's well known for his own poetic harmonies, is part of our experiment to forge a collaboration between hearing and deaf youth. Have you seen dancing haiku?

It's been great getting to know teachers like Amy Malone (MSSD) and Michael Fleegler (Coolidge)who have not just contributed unsuspecting new poets to this project, but the kind of enthusiasm teachers have that inspires the rest of us.

The book launch and reading will be the final program of the Big Read - D.C. on Friday, May 29 at 6 PM at Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th Street, NW. Poems will be read and signed aloud.

It's been a challenging process more so for the adults than the youth. But what worthwhile endeavor isn't challenging?

Kwame wrote about the first day on his blog. Here's his entry.

BOOK-IN-A-DAY Kwame Alexander May 2, 2009

You started Book-in-a-Day to inspire students to write. To make writing cool. To create student authors. To open young minds to extraordinary possibilities. The whole "one day" thing was sort of a fluke. You kind of backed into it. But, hey it works.
Since 2006, you've created over 400 student authors.
You've never worked with deaf students. Until Saturday.
At 8am, 8 deaf students were on one side of the room, and 8 hearing students were on the other.
There was fear, nervousness, all kinds of hesitation. You know this, because you experience all three.
You were prepared for this workshop. You did the work.
Nothing can prepare you for teaching poetry to a group of deaf and hearing students.
Except doing it.
You begin with a rhyme poem. It's your comfort zone first 30 seconds routine.
There is no concept for rhyme in ASL (American Sign Language).
Why didn't you know this? What do you do now?
Clerihews always work. Wait a minute. Clerihews are rhyme poems. Oh my, maybe my father was right.
The workshop will last for five hours, and you're supposed to inspire the students to write poetry that behaves, for publication, and you are like an ABC drama, after only 4 minutes.
When you are teaching deaf and hearing students to write poetry, and how to publish a book, and you suddenly have the realization that Sign Language is NOT ENGLISH, and grammar, rhyme and other English constructs to do not apply, IT IS TIME TO DANCE.
A deaf student says there is no such thing as bad poetry. A hearing student agrees.
You ask them is there such a thing as bad fried chicken. You tell them to season their poems right, cook them well…you ask them the ingredients that go into a poem.
Rhythm. Imagery. Feeling. Line breaks. ..
You start getting a little comfortable.
Deanna has a brilliant idea. Pair them up together, one hearing, one deaf, and let them write a list poem together.
Until now, the students are Capulets and Montagues. Okay, well maybe not that extreme, but they are of two different worlds. Afraid. Unaware. Unknowing.
You watch the resistance.
You walk around and see the poems forming. You see the walls coming down.
You see a deaf girl and a hearing boy texting each other.
Well, yes!
You see a deaf girl and a hearing boy smiling. At each other. For a while.
You see something happening that is magical, and wonderful.
And hopeful.
You do not know where the time has gone. You finally have everyone dancing, and it is almost time to go.
You ask the students to read their poems. Deaf students sign. Hearing students read. Some simultaneous. It is honest. Authentic.
A phenomenal interpreter (because none of this works without fabulous interpreters) asks if you've considered doing this at other deaf schools. She wants to come with you.
The students leave. You will see them again in two weeks.
This is what you do.
And, you are making a living.
And, you love your job.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Library of Congress and its WPA Federal Arts Collections (Wednesday, May 20)

Wednesday, May 20 at 12 noon John Y. Cole, Director of the Center for the Book, and Ralph Eubanks, Director Publishing for the Library of Congress ( will host a brown bag lunch presentation and overview of the Library’s collections from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930s. The WPA Guides to the States from the Federal Writers Project, and the oral histories from the Ex-Slave Narrative Collection will be featured. The Library of Congress has an extensive collection of photos, manuscripts, recordings, posters, and other publications from the WPA programs. Participants will take away additional information about the collections and learn more about the innovative programs and the people who documented real American stories.

The presentation will take place in the Library of Congress Madison Building, Room LM 602,(Independence Avenue between 1st & 2nd Streets SE

Space is limited to 20 persons for this brown bag lunch. Reservations Required. Email or call (202) 387-8391

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sherill Tippins talks about February House - Thursday, May 14

Group houses are usually associated with a ribbon of empty pizza boxes on the floor, recent college grads trying to get on a career track, or graduates finishing an advanced degree and cutting back on other expenses. Or for others, people just trying to get back on their feet after some kind of life crisis or spill.

For the occupants of February House, the group home of Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britton, W.H. Auden and others, the company of artists fed the imaginations and musings of the permanent residents as well as other creatives who were just passing through.

Thursday, May 14 at 7 PM, Chapters Literary Arts Center presents an evening with Sherill Tippens, the author of February House: The Story of Carson MCcullers, W.H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof in Wartime America. The event will be at the Charles Sumner School at 17th & M Streets, NW (across from National Geographic). For information email The event is FREE and open to the public.

How "lively" was this group house on Middagh Street in Brooklyn, NY? Here are a few questions from the Random House discussion guide:
Louis MacNeice observed that the residents of 7 Middagh Street were "ever so bohemian, raiding the icebox at midnight and eating the catfood by mistake." Was this eccentric, highly tolerant, and often chaotic environment a necessary part of the creative equation? What might the ideal conditions be for writing a novel or composing music — a routine, quiet life, as Gustave Flaubert suggested, or a life open to all of life's random elements and occurrences? Which kinds of conditions do you find best facilitate your own creative work?
Paul Bowles traced his wife Jane's increased alcohol consumption and, following Auden's example, her use of Benzedrine tablets to her stay at 7 Middagh. Years earlier, it was George Davis who introduced Auden to the stimulants in the first place. Do you see a pattern of drug and alcohol abuse in the house? What role did it play in setting the stage for the creative synergy that characterized the experiment? How would the house have been different without these substances? To what degree did they lead to the end of the communal living experiment?

Two of the temporary residents of February House were the international strip-tease artist Gypsy Rose Lee who used the space to write and complete a novel; Tippins writes:
Carson felt that she could tell Gypsy anything, so of course she did.

And Richard Wright, his wife Ellen and their daughter who left the house after one year:
He found it too painful, he said, to witness Carson's self-destruction through drinking and George's dangerous adventures among the bars and brothels of Sands Street.

About Sherill Tippins:

Sherill Tippins is also the coauthor of The Irreverent Guide to New York. She moved to New York from Austin, Texas, at the age of twenty-two to pursue a career as a screenwriter and author. Ten years later, having settled with her husband and two children in Brooklyn Heights, a quiet neighborhood overlooking Manhattan at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, she began volunteering for a neighborhood meal-delivery program to the elderly and infirm. It was from one of these neighbors that she first heard of the extraordinary experiment in communal living — involving a British poet, a southern novelist, one of the world's great opera composers, and a celebrated stripper — that had taken place sixty years earlier just a few blocks from her home. Her fascination with the house and its residents prompted her to begin collecting facts and anecdotes about their shared life in Brooklyn, and eventually to recreate their experience in February House.

Tippins is now at work on another untold story, of a century's worth of creative interaction and raucous living — stretching over the decades from Sarah Bernhardt to O. Henry, from Thomas Wolfe to Jackson Pollock, William Burroughs, Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, and beyond — set in New York's famous (and infamous) Victorian-era edifice the Chelsea Hotel.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Eliza McGraw on Jewish Identity in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

TONIGHT (Tues., May 12) Eliza McGraw, author of Two Covenants: Twentieth-Century Representations of Southern Jewishness will introduce a special screening of the 1968 film adaptation of “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center. Dr. McGraw’s introduction will focus on John Singer’s Jewish identity as well as the gaps created by surveys of southern culture that rarely assess the contributions of Jews and histories of Jews in America and living in the American South.

The Washington DC Jewish Community Center posted more about the event and Jewish identity in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter on the 16thstreetj blog yesterday:

Dr. McGraw's expertise extends beyond southern culture and sensibilities. She is an expert equestrian. Her recent book, Greatest Kentucky Derby Upsets, came off the press in 2007 and is now begging for an update thanks to this year's long-shot, Mine That Bird (50-1). In an email chat, I asked McGraw if she saw that coming:

I definitely did not see that long shot coming. I was pulling for Pioneer of the Nile, because I am a Bob Baffert fan and believe he is due for a comeback. (But the last time I picked a Derby winner was Silver Charm, so I don't have a very good record as a handicapper.)

The Washington DCJCC is located at 1529 16th Street, NW - use 16th Street entrance. The introduction and film begin at 7 PM. For information, email, or call 202-777-3248.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Poet J. Joy Matthews Alford (Sistah Joy) and her grand-daughter, Jordan, made Saturday's D.C. Public Library marathon (5/2/09) a family adventure.

Michon Boston
Project Director
2009 Big Read - D.C.

Greetings All,

I am happy to share this article (link from my AuthorsDen website blog of my participation in DC's BIG READ at the MLK, Jr. Memorial Library this past Saturday (May 2, 2009).

Please share the link with friends you feel would be interested. I've also included a few photos from Saturday below. Enjoy!

Sistah Joy & Jordan, about to head out for our "Big Read" adventure
at the MLK, Jr. Memorial Library! (5/2/09)

Excited to be riding the train to the MLK Library!

Checking out a game of Chess at the MLK, Jr. Memorial Library

Sistah Joy reads Carson McCullers' The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
at DC's "Big Read" at MLK, Jr. Memorial Library (5/2/09)

Blessings, Sistah Joy

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Oral History Workshop @ The Historical Society of Washington, DC

The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. and The Veteran’s History Project will present an oral history workshop, Saturday, May 8 from 10 am until 12 noon.

The Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress’American Folklife collects and preserves the remembrances of American war veterans. This free oral history workshop offered at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. will give you a chance to work with experts from the Veterans History Project and learn methods and techniques for collecting and preserving the stories of veterans from your family and in your community.

The Historical Society of Washington, DC is located at 801 K Street, NW (zip - 2001). Closest Metro is Mt. Vernon/Convention Center.

For information Ph. (202) 383-1830 Email

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Larry Neal Writers Competition Awards Ceremony - this Friday!


Friday, May 8 at 6 PM, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities presents its Larry Neal Writers Awards from its annual writers competition named for the poet, journalist, playwright, essayist and former DCCAH executive director. The annual competition is open to emerging and professional writers of all ages residing in the District of Columbia.

This year, the Commission is awarding a Big Read-D.C. Special Recognition Award for Creative Expression as part of DC’s 2009 Big Read celebration of author Carson McCuller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. This special prize will be given in each age group to writers who composed an essay on the theme of courage. The 2009 Big Read – D.C. honorary chair George Pelecanos will present the awards.

The awards ceremony will take place in Theater J at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th Street, NW at Q – 16th Street Entrance. [Note: the venue is changed from the earlier versions of the Big Read – D.C. schedule.]

The ceremony is presented in partnership with the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. The event is free and open to the public. RSVP – Email RSVP to, or call (202) 724-5613, TDD (202) 724-4493.

To learn more about Larry Neal and his influence on the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, visit the website or our competition blog post on the Big Read – D.C. blog .

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Today! at the DC Public Library

The Big Read - D.C. Marathon starts 10 AM TODAY at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memeorial Library (901 G Street, NW - Gallery Place Metro). Guest readings of THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER begin at 10 AM and end at 3:30 PM, followed by swing and hand dancing in the Great Hall. Chess, Book bingo and other surprises throughout the day.

For a complete list of readers, visit; and for an activities calendar, visit

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Book Clubs are Getting on Board The Big Read

In just 1 week, at least 3 book clubs are meeting or have met to discuss THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER. And what are they saying about our city book? Here are two comments from The North Portal Estates Book Club who met April 24:

Throughout our discussion there was the push and pull between those who read the book and felt a sense of despair and those who felt a sense of hope. Those on the side of hope prevailed, which is a good thing. As we bounced between hope and despair, we explored the complexity of the five main characters and thought that the number should have been expanded to at least six to include Portia. We praised the writing style and the ability of someone who started writing the novel at age 19 to capture so many different individual styles and themes – themes such as race and class and gender and the promise of the writings of capitalism and democracy and those of Marxism. We focused on the inability of the characters to create meaningful relationships. It seemed that for all the characters – major and minor – that they lacked the knowledge and skills to create non-lonely relationships. One interesting theme discussed was the extent to which McCullers found wanting a practice of “religion” that was no more than mere projection of human wants, needs and desires onto a real or imagined being who could offer nothing in response. As noted, we ended on a note of hope, which suggests that the heart is really a “hope-filled” hunter. The April meeting marked the seventh anniversary of the book club. Jerome

The "Heart is a Lonely Hunter" by Carson McCullers was truly an interesting read. I found the imagery to be outstanding. The details place you right on the scene. I would have liked a little more action and a little less dialogue. But that's ok. McCullers' novel solidified the fact that, as individuals, we are so different that sometimes it is difficult for us to connect and grasp the sense that we are truly understood by our fellow "hunters". But that's ok too, because "The Hunt Goes On.” Liz

Sunday, April 26, the Oracle Set Book Club, founded in 1966 in Washington, DC hosted "A Bit of Deaf Culture" at Gallaudet University's Alumni House (that used to serve as the college's gym). Bettie Waddy Smith and Rosalyn Coates (our Big Read postcard models) facilitated the discussion which included a book summary by Susan Schatz who works with Bettie at Gallaudet. Schatz is deaf and gave some insight into the deaf community at the time McCullers wrote the novel: In the 1930s, deaf education consisted of teaching children how to talk. If that failed, they learned to sign (not so today); American Sign Language (ASL) was not recognized until 1960. And a question - "Why did Singer move to the South from Chicago which was a hub for deaf community?" Was he a loner or individualist by character/nature. Schatz is also a visual artist and talked about her life growing up deaf and attending "regular" schools. The program also included a performance by the children's class of the Deaf Dance Academy introduced and led by Tara Downing. We have pics (see below):

The Women's National Democratic Club Book group will have its discussion of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter April 29 (members only). An update of that discussion will be posted here.

In the meantime, if your bookclub or group is talking about The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, let us know. Just add your comments and news on this blog.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Big Read - D.C. weekend

Today's is the day for the 2009 Big Read - D.C. kick-off at Gallaudet University. The program begins at 11 AM George Pelecanos is speaking and there will be a small reception with refreshments in the Student Academic Center.

Tomorrow, (Sunday, 4/26) the Oracle Set Book Club is hosting "A Glimpse Into Deaf Culture Through Dance" at Gallaudet's Alumni House. The National Deaf Dance Academy will perform. The program begins at 3 PM and includes a book discussion.

Gallaudet University is located at 800 Florida Avenue, NE.

For a full calendar of events, visit

Make your heart an open book.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SpeakeasyDC opens the Big Read - D.C. tonight

Today's Washington Post District Weekly front page features the Big Read - D.C. Today is the official first day of the month-long city ready of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.

SpeakeasyDC is scheduled to open the city read with a performance of a new work inspired by McCullers' book. The event is at Busboys and Poets (2021 14th Street, NW) at 7:30 PM. General seating in the Langston Room.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Are You Reading The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter?

The 2009 Big Read - D.C. launches this week!
We want to know who's reading The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, the 2009 city book.

Take the short survey.

Upcoming Events and they're FREE!
Tuesday, April 21, 6 PM, The DC Public Library explores deaf characters in popular films with a screening of "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" based on Carson McCullers' book. Alan Arkin received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of John Singer. (Note: The Washington DC Jewish Community Center will also host a screening of the film on May 13 with an introdcution by Dr. Liza McGraw, author of Two Convenants: Twentieth-Century Representations of Southern Jewishness)

Thursday, April 23, SpeakeasyDC will highlight the Big Read - D.C. book in an evening of true-to-life stories titled "Outside Looking In." The performance begins at 7:30 PM at Busboys and Poets (2021 14th Street, NW).

Saturday, April 25 at 11 AM is the official kick-off event for the Big Read - D.C. featuring the 2009 honorary chair George Pelecanos and performances by the D.C. Labor Chorus, and Quest: Arts for Everyone. A small reception will follow the program. The kick-off will be in the Elstad Auditorium on the Gallaudet University campus (800 Florida Avenue, NE).

A full calendar events can be found at

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Why Do You Read?

The Big Read - D.C. asks communities to read together, but that's not always possible. So we're asking individuals "Why Do You Read?" That's the them for the "keynote" for the upcoming kick-off Saturday, April 25 at 11 AM at Gallaudet University (800 Florida Avenue, NE). George Pelecanos will be there to give the keynote - "Why I Read....Why I Write."
Lots of people seem to read to take them to different places or experiences outside their own. For some readers that "someplace else" can be "anyplace but where I am now."

Apparently, there's an up-turn for reading during a downturn. Book sales are currently up in Europe. And in the U.S. sales of romance novel are on the up-tick according to Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic Monthly:

Romance fiction generated $1.375 billion in sales in 2007. And while other forms of entertainment suffer economically, romance novels usually sell better during economic downturns. Why? Probably because it's cheap -- anywhere from $4 to $8 for several hours worth of escape in the privacy of your own garden, bed, or bathtub --- and best of all, when times are awful everywhere you're guaranteed a happy ending.

Spoiler Alert: Uh...Big Read - D.C. books haven't offered neat happy endings. But the Big Read - D.C. does offer happy experiences for new and continuing readers who show up at our activities and events.

We're less than two weeks away from the official start of the 2009 Big Read - D.C. The schedule is on-line at
Tell us on this blog "Why Do You Read?"

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gallaudet University Students discuss The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

Tuesday, April 7 from 4 - 5 PM, a panel of Gallaudet University undergraduate students will discuss The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. The discussion will be moderated by Jim McCarthy, Instruction and Reference Librarian for the Gallaudet University Library (sponsor).

The discussion will take place in the G area of the I. King Jordan Student Activities Center. Interpretation will be available for hearing attendees.

Gallaudet University is the world leader in liberal education and career development for deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduate students. The University enjoys an international reputation for the outstanding graduate programs it provides deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing students, as well as for the quality of the research it conducts on the history, language, culture, and other topics related to deaf people.

The 2009 Big Read - D.C. is proud to partner with Gallaudet for this year's city read of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.

The Gallaudet University Community Relations Committee is the co-sponsor for the official Big Read kick-off coming up on Saturday, April 25 at 11 AM in the Elstad Auditorium.

Gallaudet University is located at 800 Florida Avenue, NE. For more information about the book discussion email or call:
202-651-5217 (V)
202-651-5212 (TTY)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The 70th Anniversary of Marian Anderson's Easter Sunday Concert

The renowed contralto Marian Anderson (1897 - 1993) didn't intend to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Easter Sunday 1939. Her recital was scheduled to take place in the Daughters of the American Revolution's (DAR) Constitution Hall. The DAR refused to allow Anderson to perform in the concert hall because she was African American. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt heard about the incident and resigned from the DAR in protest. The First Lady wrote a formal statement regarding her resignation in her "My Day" newspaper column.

This Easter Sunday--April 12 at 2 PM--mezzo soprano Denyce Graves will appear on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for a 70th anniversary tribute to Anderson's historic concert. Joining her will be Sweet Honey in the Rock, the Washington National Opera, and the Chicago Children's Choir. Denyce Graves, a native Washingtonian, was the 1991 recipient of the Marian Anderson Award presented by Anderson herself. In 2005 she performed at the first-day-of-issue dedication of the US Postal Service's Marian Anderson stamp at DAR Headquarters in Washington, DC. DAR President General Presley Merritt Wagoner said the following in the welcoming remarks.

It is most fitting that we gather in Memorial Continental Hall at Constitution Hall, the place which historically represents a sad chapter in our country's history and in the history of DAR. We deeply regret that Marian Anderson was not given the opportunity to perform her 1939 Easter concert in Constitution Hall but recognize that in the positive sense the event was a pivotal point in the struggle for racial equality.

Ms. Anderson's legendary concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial will always be remembered as a milestone in the Civil Rights movement. The beauty of her voice, amplified by her courage and grace, brought attention to the eloquence of the many voices urging our nation to overcome prejudice and intolerance. It sparked change not only in America but also in the DAR.

I stand before you today wishing that history could be re-written, knowing that it cannot, and assuring you that DAR has learned from the past.

Anderson subsequently performed at DAR Constitution Hall in 1942 and on numerous occasions.
Big Read - D.C.'s walking tour, "New Deal Washington" will start from DAR Constitution Hall and the story of Anderson's 1939 concert. Kim Roberts has authored our Big Read - D.C. walking tours from our very first city read to explore our Big Read - D.C. books through a D.C. lens and D.C. stories. Curator Paul Gardullo, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Donna Wells, Prints and Photographs librarian for the Moorland Spingarn Research Center at Howard University will lead a special tour of "The Scurlock Studio and Black Washington: Picturing the Promise" which includes Anderson's fur coat and photos from the Lincoln Memorial concert including the photo above. These events will take place in May during the Big Read - D.C. month.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mutual Admiration: Carson McCullers and Richard Wright

to me the most impressive aspect of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is the astonishing humanity that enables a white writer, for the first time in Southern fiction, to handle Negro characters with as much ease and justice as those of her own race. This cannot be accounted for stylistically or politically; it seems to stem from an attitude toward life which enables Miss McCullers to rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness.

- Richard Wright, New Republic (August, 1940)

When Carson McCullers published The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter in 1940, novelist Richard Wright wrote a glowing review of the book. Wright had also published his first novel, Native Son, that same year.

Editor George Davis, who shared a Brooklyn Heights house with McCullers and other artists at 7 Middagh Street, invited Wright to a combination birthday party, housewarming and Thanksgiving celebration.

"My friend Carson McCullers was so deeply touched by your review of her book and is most anxious to meet you," George wrote.

Wright was unable to make the party. Two years later, he, his wife Ellen Poppel and infant daughter Julia moved in with McCullers and her house mates. 7 Middagh was named "February House" by diarist Anais Nin for the several residents --W.H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, George Davis, and Carson McCullers--born in the month of February.

Wright found a friend in McCullers. The racism of the outside world did not intrude on the community inside February House. However, a black man, his white wife, and their baby daughter raised eyebrows in the neighborhood. Stones were thrown at the windows of February House. Wright was encountered by the coal deliverer, also African African, who refused to offer service to someone of his own race.

A year later, Carson McCullers began to decline from alcoholism and persistent poor health. Wright noticed the self-destructive change in her behavior and decided it was time for him and his family to leave February House especially for the sake of his daughter.

Carson McCullers counted Richard Wright's Black Boy (published 1945) as one of her favorite books. She wrote in her unfinished autobiography....

Another writer who was particularly dear to me is Richard Wright. … Dick and I often discussed the South, and his book, [Black Boy,] is one of the finest books by a Southern [Negro.]

To read Richard Wright's full review of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, visit

The Big Read - D.C. and its community partner Chapters Literary Arts Center looks forward to hosting Sherill Tippins, author of February House in May. Check the Big Read - D.C. calendar in April at

Saturday, March 14, 2009

ISO of Carson McCullers' D.C. Connection

It's been a challenge finding a D.C. connection for author Carson McCullers. Unlike Zora Neale Hurston (2007), McCullers didn't attend college and meet a BLF (best literary friend) named Langston Hughes here; unlike F. Scott Fitzgerald (2008), her parents weren't married in D.C.; neither did she have a daughter take up residence here (Scotty).

But through the Big Read, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter has made its own D.C. connection through E. Ethelbert Miller, one of the featured commentators on the Big Read Audio Guide for the book narrated by former NEA chair Dana Gioia. Miller is joined by Edward Albee, Alan Arkin, P.J. O'Rourke, Mary Louise Parker, Gore Vidal and others .
E. Ethelbert Miller describes The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter as a "must read" on the CD.

E. Ethelbert Miller has published his second memoir, The 5th Inning, through a new publishing venture by the Big Read - D.C.'s community partner Busboys and Poets. The cover is designed by Andy Shallal, owner of the Busboys and Poets restaurants and now its companion press (via PM Press). The 5th Inning the first book for Busboys and Poets.

Miller, a literary activist and board chair for the Institute for Policy Studies, has authored several collections of poems. His first memoir, Fathering Words, was selected for the DC Public Library's Center for the Book "DC We Read" program. He's often heard on NPR radio. Miller is also a founder of the Humanities Council of Washington, DC (co-presenter for the Big Read - D.C.)

We learn that what happens, even in these relationships with people that we love, we have difficulty communicating. We wind up being "deaf" to each other.
E. Ethelbert Miller, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter Audio Guide

Carson McCullers never got to 2nd base in her 5th inning. She died at age 50.

A launch party for The 5th Inning and the Busboys and Poets press is scheduled for Monday, March 16 at 7 PM at Busboys and Poets (2021 14th Street, NW). The event will feature readings by Miller and other special guests as well as a book signing.

Copies of the Big Read Audio Guide to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter will be available at Big Read - D.C. events including the upcoming SpeakeasyDC event at Busboys and Poets April 23 (7:30 PM); and the official kick-off at Gallaudet University, April 25 (11 AM). For more information, call 202-387-8391 or email

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Deaf History Month (March 13 - April 13)

Deaf History month begins March 13. The District of Columbia Library's Adaptive Services Division has a schedule of events and activities year round including ASL readings, classes, and special guest speakers. It's speculated that Deaf History month was founded at the DC Public Library! During the month, libraries are encouraged to host deaf awareness activities.

For more information, contact Library Services to the Deaf Community:

Voice (via Video Relay Service) 866-570-7364 and ask for Janice Rosen;

Voice (direct) or VideoPhone (202) 727-2145; TTY (202) 727-2255


Saturday, March 21 from 11 am - 4 pm, the DCPL Adaptive Services Division will have a new Grand Opening and Open House:

11am to 12 noon ASL (American Sign Language) Story Hour, Librarian Janice Rosen signs in ASL, "Moses Goes to the Circus," by Isaac Millman - stories projected on a screen page by page as the story as told. Therapy dog teams from People Animals Love will join us for the story hour and will stay after the story hour at a designated table to talk to people and answer questions.

12:15 pm to 1:45 pm Library director, Ginnie Cooper, and members from the blind community and the Library of Congress National Library Services for the Blind. including Michael Mellor, the author of the most recent biography of Louis Braille will speak.

2 to 3 Sing and Sign in ASL. Learn to sign a simple song and learn a few other signs, too.

CART and ASL interpreters will be provided. Deaf-Blind who need tactile or close-vision interpreters or other accomodations, please let us know right away.

Thursday, March 26 - 7:00 – 8:45 pm

Germantown Library, 19840 Century Blv, Germantown , MD 20874

Saturday March 28 at 12 noon - 2 pm

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW (Rm A-5), Washington, DC 20001

Independent Researcher Steven Sandy presents William Ellsworth “Dummy” Hoy: Deaf Baseball Hero

Dummy Hoy was the first deaf player in major league baseball and had to overcome many obstacles on his way to becoming one of the greatest outfielders of his time. Hoy is credited with the creation of the hand signals used by umpires to indicate whether the pitch thrown was a “strike” or a “ball.” Not being able to hear the calls which were shouted out by the umpires, Hoy asked his coach to stand at third base and raise his right hand for a strike and left hand for a ball. These hand signals are used by baseball umpires all over the world today. Mr. Sandy’s research covers the whole range of Hoy's life from the time he was born on May 23, 1862 on a farm in Houcktown , Ohio to his death on December 15, 1961 in Cincinnati , Ohio at the age of 99.

Let's Communicate - American Sign Language Classes - Spring Schedule

Classes are held at the MLK, Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW. Check the electronic bulletin board at the entrance to confirm meeting room. All sign language programs are FREE and open to the public. There is NO need to register.

BEGINNING LEVEL (100+ Basic ASL Vocabulary and Basic ASL Structure)
Mon./Tues. March 16 – May 11, 2009: 5:30 – 7:00 pm - 2nd Floor E. Lobby
Mon./Tues. May 18 – June 30, 2009: 5:30 – 7:00 pm – 2nd Floor E. Lobby
(Instructor: Maurice Smith)

INTERMEDIATE LEVEL (More Vocabulary / Advanced Rules of ASL)
Tuesdays February 3 – April 28, 2009: 5:30 – 7:30 pm – Room 221
(Instructor: Richard Stokes. NOTE on March 10, 17, 31, class will NOT meet in Room 221. Check electronic bulletin board or the Book Information Desk for the room number.)
Mon./Tues. March 16 – May 11, 2009: 5:30 – 7:00 pm – 2nd Floor E.
(Instructor: Linda McCrimmon)
Tuesdays May 5 – June 30, 2009: 5:30 – 7:30 pm – Room TBA
(Instructor: Richard Stokes)
Mon./Tues. May 18 – June 30, 2009: 5:30 – 7:00 pm – 2nd Floor E. Lobby
(Instructor: Linda McCrimmon)

CONVERSATIONAL (Communication Practice – All skill levels)
Saturdays February 7 – May 23, 2009: 10:00 am – 12:00 Noon – Room 221
(Instructor: Andrea Galer)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Three Authors and a Poem

Carson McCullers took the title for her novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, from a poem by William Sharp - "The Lonely Hunter." William Sharp was a Scottish poet (1855-1905), journalist, and editor who also wrote under the pseudonym Fiona MacLeod. Fiona often published works in the style of the " Celtic Twilight School" popularized by William Butler Yeats. The writing was mystical, imaginative, mythical. Sharp's double identity was kept secret from the public. His sister Mary and his mother were called on to provide correspondence from Fiona MacLeod in an authentic woman's handwriting. Fiona MacLeod was enjoying a successful career and Sharp could not let her go until his death. When Fiona's true identity was revealed, it caused a scandal.

"The Lonely Hunter" was one of many poems written by Fiona MacLeod aka William Sharp.

Green branches, green branches, I see you beckon; I follow!
Sweet is the place you guard, there in the rowan-tree hollow.
There he lies in the darkness, under the frail white flowers,
Heedless at last, in the silence, of these sweet midsummer hours.

But sweeter, it may be, the moss whereon he is sleeping now,
And sweeter the fragrant flowers that may crown his moon-white brow:
And sweeter the shady place deep in an Eden hollow
Wherein he dreams I am with him — and, dreaming, whispers, “Follow!”

Green wind from the green-gold branches, what is the song you bring?
What are all songs for me, now, who no more care to sing?
Deep in the heart of Summer, sweet is life to me still,
But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.

Green is that hill and lonely, set far in a shadowy place;
White is the hunter’s quarry, a lost-loved human face:
O hunting heart, shall you find it, with arrow of failing breath,
Led o’er a green hill lonely by the shadowy hound of Death?

Green branches, green branches, you sing of a sorrow olden,
But now it is midsummer weather, earth-young, sun-ripe, golden:
Here I stand and I wait, here in the rowan-tree hollow,
But never a green leaf whispers, “Follow, oh, Follow, Follow!”

O never a green leaf whispers, where the green-gold branches swing:
O never a song I hear now, where one was wont to sing.
Here in the heart of Summer, sweet is life to me still,
But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Meet the 2009 Big Read - D.C.
Honorary Chair, George Pelecanos

Local author and native Washingtonian George Pelecanos is honorary chair for the 2009 Big Read - D.C. Pelecanos is the author of 15 novels set in and around the District as well as editor for two short story anthologies under the title D.C. Noir. Most recently, he was a producer, writer, and story editor for the acclaimed HBO dramatic series, "The Wire."

Pelecanos has been a friend of the Big Read - D.C. since he participated in our community partners's meeting to select the 2008 Big Read - D.C. book, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

As a crime novelist, Pelecanos has a special kinship with Washington, DC area where he grew up, went to school, church, and worked. The road to the first novel was paved with a variety of jobs including linecook, dishwaster, woman's shoe salesman, and bartender. The first novel, A Firing Offense, brought a small advance but not enough to pay the rent. It did lead to a second novel, a new publisher and a larger advance to live on, plus a film option from Miramax. Options of books don't guarantee films, but they can bring writers some attractive income from Hollywood. His novel Right as Rain is currently in development with director Curtis Hanson (LA Confidential, Wonder Boys) and Warner Brothers.

Carson McCullers was no stranger to Hollywood either. She adapted her third novel, Member of the Wedding (1946) into a stage play. It went to Broadway and then was optioned for a Hollywood film production starring Julie Harris and Ethel Waters. McCullers' other novels --The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, Reflections in a Golden Eye, and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter--were all optioned and adapted for film.

For the 2009 Big Read - D.C., George Pelecanos will be joining us for the official kickoff Saturday, April 25, the Larry Neal Writers Competition Awards on May 8, and a reading at Politics & Prose of his new novel, The Way Home due for release in May. (Stay tuned to this blog for the complete and most up-to-date calendar for the 2009 Big Read - D.C.)

This year's Big Read - D.C. aims to inspire new readers and writers. Each year, the Big Read - D.C. introduces new work by community partners like SpeakeasyDC and DC WritersCorps, as well as D.C. high school student poets and essayists.

For more information about George Pelecanos, visit his website at
Read about our February community partners meeting on the national NEA Big Read blog

Monday, February 16, 2009

SpeakeasyDC featured in Sunday's WaPo

SpeakeasyDC was featured in Sunday's (2/15/09) Metro section of the Washingotn Post in an article titled "True Lives, Under a Spotlight" by Tara Bahrampour. SpeakeasyDC trains and showcases local storytellers monthly to share true stories or tall tales, mostly autobigraphical.

SpeakeasDC will be the first community partner event for the 2009 Big Read - D.C. with "Outside Looking In," a tribute to the 2009 Big Read - D.C. city book, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Last year they packed the Langston Room for the city read of The Great Gatsby. The event is scheduled for Busboys and Poets April 23rd at 7:30 PM. For more information, contact SpeakeasDC at

Monday, February 9, 2009

Larry Neal Writers' Competition to give a Big Read - D.C. Special Recognition Award for Creative Expression in 2009

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities announces the availability of applications for the 26th Annual Larry Neal Writers’ Competition, which is open to District of Columbia resident amateur and professional writers of all ages. Submissions will be judged using a blind format by distinguished area literary professionals in the following genres: poetry, short story, essay, and dramatic writing. Winners will be announced at the much anticipated awards ceremony to take place at 6:00 pm, May 8, 2009 at the Elizabethan Theatre of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Cash awards and prizes will be given. The ceremony is presented in partnership with the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., PEN Faulkner Foundation, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Special initiative for 2009: The Big Read-D.C. Special Recognition Award for Creative Expression. As part of DC’s 2009 Big Read celebration of author Carson McCuller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, a special prize will be given in each age group to writers who compose an essay on the theme of courage.

DEADLINE: Submissions must be received in the Commission’s office by 7:00 pm Thursday, March 19, 2009. For more information, program guidelines and an application form, please visit and click on “special events.”

About Larry Neal (photo): Larry Neal was a journalist, essayist, arts and culture critic, playwright, and poet during an artistic era known as the "Black Arts Movement" from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s. Lawrence P. Neal was born in Atlanta, GA in 1937. His family moved to Philadelphia, PA where he and his four brothers grew up. He graduated from Lincoln University in 1961 and received his Masters from the University of Pennsylvania in 1963. In 1968, Neal co-edited Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing with Amiri Baraka which captured the spirit of the Black Arts Movement. Neal also wrote an essay about "The Black Arts Movement" in the same year. He worked as executive director of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities from 1976 - 1979. Larry Neal died from a heart attack in 1981.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Carson McCullers on Loneliness

I live with the people I create and it has always made my essential loneliness less keen.”

Carson McCullers, author, The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Heart Reading
The 2009 Big Read - D.C.

As Valentines Day approaches, we can't help but focus on the heart...and the upcoming Big Read - D.C. 2009. D.C. is reading The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. This was a first novel by a 23-year-old young woman from Columbus, Georgia. McCullers began writing the book during the Great Depression, a time of extreme economic distress, social upheaval, and, despite everything, possibilities and new [i]deals.

Last year we explored the excess and indulgences of the jazz age in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. This year our city book may be a lot more sober than the previous year's book, but thanks to our Big Read - D.C. team and community partners, you can look forward to not just reading The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, but experiencing the book from April 23 - May 23, 2009.

Get started with the Readers guide posted on the national Big Read website:
A Teachers Guide is also available. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter is assigned reading for 11th grade English classes in the D.C. Public Schools thanks to a generous grant from Reading Is Fundamental.
Share your thoughts and ideas about the book on this blog. Be part of the story!

Michon Boston
Project Director
The Big Read - D.C. 2009