“A Musical Journey to Vietnam with Van-Anh Vo”

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It was great to see all those who attended the event “A Musical Journey to Vietnam with Van-Anh Vo” at St. Francis de Sales last night.

As an Emmy award-winning zitherplayer (among other instruments, as her biography states), the experience of hearing traditional music of North, Central and Southern Vietnam; Western collaborations; and her own composition using Vietnamese instruments alongside the Hope College jazz students and faculty was an event that was an encouraging way to see and feel a different part of Vietnam, which many of us are unfamiliar with.

Join us tonight at The Commons of Evergreen at 7pm for The Holland Area Veterans Council;s Annual Veterans Day Program presentation.


Member Monday – Abbey Stroop

Anytime we embark on a one-book reading program, I ask myself what I think the community will get out of the title we select.  In the case of The Things They Carried, I hoped that multiple generations would have a common ground to begin sharing their own stories. As a member of the steering committee, even before The Big Read events begin, my hopes have already been fulfilled.

Every Thursday morning, my son and I have breakfast with my dad. As our work unfolded, I talked with my dad about the book and our plans in the community. Until one morning, when, instead of my chattering about my daily concerns, my dad started talking. He told me about the kids from his neighborhood. Like recalling a list of friends from school, he told me who went to Vietnam and who didn’t come back. And about a certain field exercise with his platoon that, had it been in combat, would have meant that he wouldn’t have come home.

His stories surprised me, academically and emotionally. The Vietnam War had been a school topic to me, but I cried for a long time after dropping my son off at school. How could I never have known any of this about my dad? About the friends that populated his childhood memories, but won’t ever be around to tell their stories. And about the day the leaves parted in front of him revealing a machine gun that forced him to face his mortality on a moment’s notice.

And how is it that I never realized that my dad was once a scared kid facing down a world of violence?

Why The Big Read is Important to Me

By Eva Dean Folkert

I have never been one for war stories.  I don’t read them, won’t watch them, and hardly listen to them either.  The heft of the subject matter is too heavy for me to bear; it weighs down my heart and tears at my soul.  So I just simply avoid it.

I suppose I have my father and brother to thank for that.  Between them, Major Robert P. Dean, my dad, and Colonel Robert C. Dean, my brother, served in four wars – WWII, the Korean War, Desert Storm, and the Iraq War – and neither ever talked openly about their experiences.  And to be quite honest, I never asked them to. My dad’s two Purple Hearts and Bronze Star were enough proof of his foot-soldier heroism without my asking him to relive it.  The care packages we sent to my surgeon-brother with covert whiskey hidden inside were enough to know he needed additional means to cope with the horrific injuries he treated due to modern military arsenals. I knew the heft of the subject matter weighted down their hearts and souls far deeper than mine. So I just simply avoided it.

Now though, the Vietnam War book, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, sits by my favorite reading chair, its new binding becoming slowly, intentionally cracked because of the Big Read 2015.  When I jubilantly joined in the Big Read in 2014, I picked up a well-worn copy of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird at the kickoff event where Dr. Fred Johnson was in full educational force.  I wanted it that way. I wanted to read a copy of the long beloved story of Scout and Atticus, Jem and Boo Ridley that many hands had held, that many eyes had read, that many minds had believe in before.  I suppose you could say its tactile familiarity even soothed me.

But this year, when I again attended the Big Read launch with Dr. Johnson booming his mind-blowing lessons once more, I was glad to find that the only Big Read books I could pick up were as new as the day they came off the printing press.  Every O’Brien book was gloriously pristine and clean.  Actually, it seems only right that this is how it should be.  I should hold and read and believe in a brand-new book with brand-new stories to me, even though some version of them have been living in my own family for years.  I suppose you could say its tactile unfamiliarity might even soothe me too.

And I know this: I need the help of other big readers to navigate a new, written, war-torn terrain to understand better and grow more for the sake and love of my father and brother.  These O’Brien war stories I prefer not to read alone though.  So I’m thankful that the Big Read will be there for me.

Recap of Last Week’s Events

Thank you to all who joined us for the documentary Naneek last Wednesday night in Graves Hall. It was great to see you there!

If you missed us and would like to find out more information, Naneek’s site is a great resource for you to learn more about Tim ‘Naneek’ Keenan’s experience of returning to the “country he equates with war.”

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In addition to Naneek, we hosted two book discussions in Holland on Tuesday and Thursday of last week.

Did you miss out on our events earlier in the week?

Check out our recaps of Dr. Fred Johnson’s talk, The Legacy of Their Burdens and our visit from Luis Carlos Montalvan and dog, Tuesday, for a reading of Tuesday Tucks Me In.

Stay tuned for more The Big Read Holland Area events and book discussions coming this week!

Tuesday Tucks Me In- Children’s Event at Herrick District Library

Thank you to all who joined us last night with Luis Carlos Montalvan, former U.S. Army Captain and New York Times bestselling author, and his service dog Tuesday at Herrick District Library for a reading of his bestselling book, “Tuesday Tucks Me In.”

He spent 17 years as part of the US Army from 1990-2007 and was awarded with two Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal for Valor, and the Combat Action Badge among other awards for his service and valor.

Join us tonight at 7pm for the documentary Naneek in Winants Auditorium in Graves Hall on the Hope College campus.

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The Legacy of Their Burdens- Dr. Fred Johnson

Thank you to all who joined us tonight to hear Dr. Fred Johnson, an Associate Professor of History from Hope College, guide us through Vietnam’s history up to America’s engagement in the war and an overview of the historical context surrounding the novel “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien.

Dr. Johnson served as a Communications-Electronics and Infantry Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. He addressed the legacies of the burdens of the Vietnam War included conflict abroad, unfinished war at home; bizarre irony; unsung heroes; their difficult duty; debated loyalty; defiance; disillusionment; and of things gone wrong.

In addition to Dr. Johnson, Mayor Bob VandeVusse spoke and dedicated November as the month of literacy and urged all members in the community to read the book and participate in events. November is nationally recognized as Family Literacy Month.

Click here to listen to Dr. Johnson’s talk

Barnes and Noble Book Vouchers

Want to support The Big Read Holland by reading a stack of new books?

Download this link to access vouchers that donate a percentage of your purchase at Barnes and Noble to The Big Read Holland Area. Offer valid only at the Barnes and Noble located on Felch Plaza in Holland.

Thank you for your support and for joining us to help create an entire community reading one book.

Big Read Holland Voucher

It’s about community

Reading transports us. It allows us to peek into another world. It stretches our imagination and asks us to consider another point of view.

For one person, reading can open a mind or grow a heart. For a whole community? Reading can change lives.

When The Big Read came to the Holland Area in 2014 I admired the commitment of the planning team and felt humbled by the dedication of the many volunteers. When I heard we’d get to do it all again in 2015, I knew that our community had begun to nurture something special.

As I started reading The Things They Carried this summer I knew I couldn’t wait until November to start posing questions and having conversations. I asked my husband what he would do if he were drafted. I listened to friends share about their lives during the Vietnam War. And I learned what they carried.

Some people carried strong memories of a very challenging time for their own families and friends. Some carried a general sense that the nation would no longer be the same. Others carried the burden of the future, of never having lived through the Vietnam War and yet knowing a little something about what it felt like to question the idea of patriotism or bravery.

As we gather in groups and discuss the book, I think we know we’re not really talking about the Vietnam War. When we question what’s “real” and what’s “fiction,” I think we know there’s no right answer.

And to be honest, these things are not what’s important. What’s important is the gathering. The questioning. The conversation.

Because, as Tim O’Brien teaches us, “. . . a true war story is never about war.” And The Big Read Holland Area—our story—isn’t about a book. It’s about a community.

-Sarah Baar

Barnes & Noble Book Fair

And we’re off!

Thank you to all who have already attended events for The Big Read Holland Area this season. It was been wonderful to hear your stories and testimonies from the Vietnam War and the book The Things They Carried.

We’d like to continue the conversation in a big way.

Join us at Barnes & Noble at the Felch Street Plaza from October 31st to November 7th for a book fair of The Things They Carried by Tim O’ Brien. Ten percent of all purchases will go to The Big Read Holland Area and be used to buy more books and publicize upcoming events.

Then, join us at 7 pm November 7th,  for the book discussion again located at the Barnes & Noble at the Felch Street Plaza located off of US 31. If you’ve read the book, just started reading the book, or have never read it before, you are welcome to join us.

If you would like access to the book sooner or would like to get involved, please check out our website for more information.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Member Monday – Sara DeVries

I love spending time in the intersection between my community as it is now and what the community dreams to become. That might look like helping someone discover and describe a calling in his/her life, welcoming children and families into our home to work on a project that builds community while helping people get to know each other, or serving on committees with agendas that help to move our community forward.

I love being part of the Big Read team because it spreads the joy of reading and discussing what we learn from reading across all ages and backgrounds in our community.

I love what The Things They Carried has to say about storytelling as a way to both share our dreams and make meaning of our experiences. “The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine”