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The UW-Parkside library staff has devised an abundance of fun and creative events coming up throughout the spring semester for this year’s Big Read. The Big Read is a grant of $5,000 to $15,000 awarded to 75 higher-education institutions across the United States by the National Endowment for the Arts. The Big Read seeks to inspire creativity in a community through focusing on a single work; here at UW-Parkside, that work is the novel “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel.
Why “Station Eleven”?
Mandel’s fourth novel received much critical acclaim when it was published in 2014 and won an Arthur C. Clarke award the following year. The story is set primarily in the near future when a flu epidemic has devastated humanity and shattered civilization. Kirsten Raymonde, the book’s main character, roams with a band of actors and musicians, exercising their art where they are able.
“Stories are integral to our survival—it’s not enough to survive: we have to tell stories, we have to entertain, we have to talk to each other,” stated Shauna Edson, Instructional Design Librarian at UW-Parkside. “That’s what the Big Read does too.” The story and the events related to it reinforce a sense of community and give students opportunities to be creative and socialize.
Edson said “Station Eleven” was favored by UW-Parkside’s faculty and staff because the school’s “pre-med program is so strong… it would allow the campus to shine in some of the subject areas that [it has] real strengths in.” Though she seldom reads sci-fi, she was “blown away” by the novel; Edson assured that “the apocalypse is really a backdrop to tell these character studies,” those studies being in how individuals conduct themselves after the End.
The Campus Photographer, Alyssa Nepper, praised the book as well: “You don’t know what’s coming—you can’t predict that.” She also found its setting absorbing, commenting, “putting yourself in that situation also made it interesting.”
A remarkable 52 events tied to the Big Read will be held at UW-Parkside, Kenosha Public Library, and other locations around Kenosha. Edson and Nepper were both enthralled to share their favorites: the keynote speaker on February 15th—Emily St. John Mandel herself—is an obvious highlight. A run incorporating survival skills being hosted by the Kenosha Running Company on March 4 is another stand-out event. Two science nights, one on flu outbreaks on February 14th and another on the mental strains of trauma on May 11, will also be held.
While there are more large events too, most of the others are smaller affairs. Survival Skills Fridays, a showing of the Star Trek episode that inspired “Station Eleven”, book discussions, and even open-play sessions of the board game Pandemic will also be held.
As of February 7, there are still copies of “Station Eleven” available for free at the campus library’s front desk; copies can also be found at Kenosha Public Library and other locations. All information about the Big Read can be found in the program available wherever books are distributed. Mandel’s presentation, which you can sign up for at http://www.uwp.edu/mandel, and some others require registration. Get reading, Rangers!