Residents and visitors are invited to help launch the sixth annual Community Reads event with a ranch-style chili-cook-off kick-off party this Tuesday in Bishop.
This year, the Inyo County Superintendent of Schools Office and Inyo Council for the Arts are promoting “Eventide” by Kent Haruf for Community Reads, which encourages everyone in the community to read the same book and engage in a dialogue about it.
And there will be plenty of opportunity for comments and discussions about “Eventide” at each of the 14 free Community Reads events to be held from Jan. 14 through March 8.
“Eventide” is a modern story of the “New West” following characters from the fictional, high-plains town of Holt in modern-day Colorado.
According to event organizer Liz McAteer of the ICA, readers will meet the McPheron brothers, aging cowboys and ranchers, and Victoria Roubideauz, a young mother they took in, as well as a young boy who cares for his aging grandfather, and a disabled couple attempting to protect a violent relative.
“It is a wonderful, character-based novel with a ranching theme,” McAteer said. “It takes place in Holt, Colo,. which is similar to Inyo County in geography – high plains with one thoroughfare. It’s a wonderful, heart-warming story and very colorful as far as working on a ranch.”
The book was chosen for Community Reads 2014 because of the similarities its setting and ranching themes have with Inyo County and its rich agricultural history.
In past years, the Community Reads program has focused on the Japanese American community with “Farewell to Manzanar” by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston; the Native American community with “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian” by Sherman Alexie; the outdoor recreation community with “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” by Aron Ralston; the Latino community with “Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea; and winter sports fans with “The Other Side of the Mountain” by Olympic ski champion and Bishop local, the late Jill Kinmont Boothe.
This year’s Community Reads selection “has enough of a tie into the ranching community that people reading it here can really relate,” McAteer said. “It’s in a contemporary setting, which I think makes it an enjoyable, relevant page-turner. And that’s the idea, to get everyone turning pages. When I read it, it was hard to put down. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
McAteer said she believes the book will resonate with local readers because it deals with “the truth that human beings are both fragile and resilient” with a story set against a backdrop locals should find familiar.
Haruf was born in Pueblo, Colo. and graduated with a BA from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1965, where he would later teach, and earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1973.
All Haruf’s novels take place in the fictional town of Holt, and “Eventide” actually follows characters the author introduced in his 1999 bestseller “Plainsong.”
McAteer said “Plainsong” is more of an adult novel that might not be appropriate for younger readers.
She also assured readers that “Eventide” is a stand-alone novel, and readers won’t be missing out if they haven’t read “Plainsong.”
To celebrate Inyo County’s ranching history as residents read “Eventide,” the ICA and Superintendent of Schools Office have planned a number of film screenings, including the documentary “Ranch Album” and the John Wayne classic “The Cowboys,” as well as ranch tours at the Talbot Ranch and Lubken Ranch, a tour of the Future Farmers of American farms in Bishop and Lone Pine, line dancing classes, a panel discussion with local ranchers and cowboy poetry readings. The whole thing ends March 8 with a community dance at the Tri-County Fairgrounds. (All Community Reads programs are free. See sidebar below for a full schedule of events.)
Tuesday’s chili cook-off kick-off party will feature the top three winners from last year’s Tri-County Fair Chili Cook-off – Cynthia McCarthy (first place), Jess McMurtrie (second place) and James Ellis (third place) – as well as ICA Executive Director Lynn Cooper. For those 21 and up, McAteer said there will be beer tasting.
The event also features Western music by Sandy and the High Country and is scheduled for 5:30-7 p.m. at the ICA on South Main Street in Bishop.
“The key of education is to educate our youth, and also our citizenry,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Terry McAteer said. “That’s what Community Reads is all about, getting everybody involved.”