Southern Indiana

Libraries and arts groups across Southern Indiana are partnering for a free reading event over the next several weeks.

The SoIN Big Read, a new community reading initiative launched by the Arts Alliance of Southern Indiana (AASI), kicked off Wednesday. More than 1,000 copies of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros are being given to members of the public at no cost.

The book tells the story of a young Mexican-American girl growing up in Chicago. The Big Read’s launch coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month.

“The House on Mango Street approaches the complexities of living life and growing through struggles of cultural, social, and gender challenges,” said AASI executive director Brian Bell in a release. “It is a book for everyone. We have chosen this title because of its broad spectrum of relatability to a diverse community. The sharing of stories that expose struggle and aspiration in everyday life connect us and strengthen community.”

Libraries in Clark, Floyd and Harrison counties are taking part in the Big Read, alongside the Jeffersonville Public Art Commission and Community Action of Southern Indiana.

Floyd County Library director Melissa Merida said she hopes the new program sparks an increased interest in reading and libraries.

“We want this to be kind of an introduction to your public library with no accessibility barriers,” she said. “Just come by and pick up a book at the Harvest Homecoming booth for the Floyd County Library, or you can come to any of our locations and pick up a free copy.”

The Clarksville branch of the Jeffersonville Township Public Library is hosting a Hispanic Heritage Celebration this Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m., where copies of the book will be distributed. 

“The book does lend itself to sort of the creative processes,” said Director David Seckman. “If you’ve ever read it, there are portions that are very poetic as well. So I think it’s going to tap into the visual and written art, too.”

A virtual book discussion is scheduled for Nov. 19. A related amateur poetry hour will be held Jan. 17.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.