JMRL’s Eleventh Annual NEA Big Read: “Silver Sparrow” by Tayari Jones


The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library invites all readers to participate in a month-long community event that will be held during March 2017. JMRL is once again partnering with the National Endowment for the Arts in the library’s 11th annual NEA Big Read.

The NEA Big Read concept is simple: to have as many people as possible in our community reading and discussing the same book at the same time. This year, that book is Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.

What is the book about? Two families with teenage girls in 1980s Atlanta live very different lives but share one thing: James Witherspoon, who is married to two different women. One mother and daughter know James’ secret. Join your neighbors in exploring secret families, STEM education for girls, and other themes inspired by the book.

JMRL will be hosting many free community events and discussions about the book and its themes at all library branches. The schedule of events for the 2017 NEA Big Read can be found at

Don’t miss your chance to meet the author, Tayari Jones, at Northside Library on Friday, March 17 at 6 p.m. or at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center on Saturday, March 18 at 6 p.m.

The National Endowment for the Arts launched the NEA Big Read after a survey in 2004 showed a decline in the reading of literature. Less than half of American adults read literature, according to the report. The NEA Big Read is presented in partnership with Arts Midwest. The NEA Big Read is also supported by the Art and Jane Hess Fund of the Library Endowment.

Get Ready to “Read for the Win” This Summer

Murphy_iREAD2016-1_color.pngJMRL is kicking off summertime with the annual Summer Reading Challenge for all ages. This year’s theme is “Read for the Win” in honor of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Simply pick up a challenge sheet at any branch or download from Once you’ve completed five library-related challenges, turn in your sheet at any branch for a prize each month (June-August). Earn extra entries into the big raffle at the end of the summer by going above and beyond and completing 10, 15, 20, or all 25 challenges on each sheet (you get one extra entry per 5 challenges completed).

Prizes for children from birth to grade 5 include a JMRL beach ball (June), and free books (July & August). Teens will win earbuds with an earbud case (June) as well as free books (July & August). Adults will receive a free book each month. Grand prizes will be drawn from entries for all participants after August 31; the prizes are a Barnes & Noble gift card for children, an Amazon gift card for teens, and a Kindle for adults.

Kick off the Summer Reading Challenge with your favorite JMRL branch by attending one (or more!) of the parties listed below:

Saturday, June 4 at 10am-12pm
Celebrate the sweet start of summer at Central Library’s annual street party. Swing to the sounds of a Dixieland band, snack on popcorn and donuts, enjoy face painting, and pick up a JMRL summer challenge sheet. Special appearance by Pete the Cat. Check out the Friends’ mini-­book sale, too.

Thursday, June 9 at 1-3pm
Ready, set, read! Race into the library to get your first dash of summer reading, and then step outside to enjoy some sweet summer treats and sun-filled fun. Pick up your first JMRL Summer Reading Challenge sheet, and let the summer begin. Special appearance by Pete the Cat.

Monday, June 6 at 6:30-8pm
I scream, you scream… let’s share some ice cream. It’s time for Gordon Avenue Library’s traditional kick-off for summer fun. Get started in the Summer Reading Program, eat ice cream, listen to music provided by the Jim Howe Jazz Trio, and get decorated by Expressions! Face Painting.

Monday, June 6 at 6-8pm
Join the Greene County Library for all kinds of fun including a moon bounce, ice cream, face painting, live music, juggling and a petting zoo. Take a balloon animal home with you. Visit with Pete the Cat who always says, “It’s all good.”

Tuesday, June 7 at 11:45am
Come join the Louisa County Library for our summer program kickoff. The Library Olympics will be held including games such as discus & javelin throw, ring toss, and more. Athlete registration begins at 11:45am and the torch lighting relay race will be at noon, followed by games and snacks. A medal ceremony for all athletes who participate will be a great photo op for parents.

Monday, June 6 at 4-6pm
“Read for the Win” is the theme for the Summer Reading Challenge. Face painting, art projects, lots of activities, snacks and information abound as this program begins.

Tuesday, June 7 at 6pm
Join us for a family dance party featuring some of your favorite tunes, an appearance by Pete the Cat, and face painting donated by Metamorphosis.

Monday, June 6 at 4pm (for grades K-5 only)
This summer the Olympic Games are being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The summer reading challenge theme at JMRL is “Read for the Win.” Fun is the object of our spin on the ancient games. Compete in indoor “races” with feathers, balloons and spoons.

Winning Words: Poetry Contest Winners

poetry on the steps 2016

Poem in Your Pocket Day is highly anticipated day at JMRL, and this year the Library was excited to add a new program to the annual events: the JMRL/WriterHouse Adult Poetry Contest. With over 90 entries in the first year of the contest, it’s easy to see that there are a lot of poets in our area.

While there were many delightful entries, judge Ron Smith, Poet Laureate of Virginia, selected Kara West as this year’s winner for her poem “July 29, 1970, Anchorage,” and Amelia Williams as runner-up for “In the Field of the Ruined Piano.”

Both contestants, among many other incredible poets, shared their poems at JMRL’s annual Poetry on the Steps, an open mic night held on the steps of the Central Library where a crowd of verse-lovers gathered to listen to and read poetry aloud.

For the moment you’ve all been waiting for, here are this year’s winning entries for the Adult Poetry Contest:

July 29, 1970
by Kara West
My mother says minutes
after I was born, while the doctor was stitching
between her legs, he and my father talked
of salmon fishing. How in Alaska,
there’s nothing better. How, if you find a sweet spot,
you can stand and hook them all day. You can
cook one while catching another
and eat it when you need a break.
And how plump and pink and tender.
At four in the morning, my mother was too tired to raise
a fuss, much less her voice. She lay and dozed
to the soft, slightly sticky sound of white nurses’ shoes,
which she mistook in her dreams for the sucking
of her new babe already at its source,
plump and pink and tender.
When I did come to her, I was not pink,
but yellow. Jaundiced and not plump,
but stringy, long, with two mottled, blinking black spots.
“She’s a bananafish,” my mother cried, bursting into tears.
My father whispered promises of beautiful
salmon fishing trips he would never take me on
into my new ears.
In the Field of the Ruined Piano
by Amelia Williams
“It’s me or that piano.” Their covered wagon groans to a halt
in a lush Appalachian meadow beside the buffalo trace
that widens up to the Cumberland Gap. Callous & loud,
no tenderness for what she loves: her rosewood Chickering Grand–
all that’s left since typhoid took her family; she wed in fear
of spinsterhood & hunger, wears regret like a muslin duster.
His gray wolfhound cowers whenever he speaks. “Unload it,”
she says, voice shaky, but brow determined, my foremother
Henrietta Schwab Funk, adding in imperious German,
“Now you may leave. I am staying to await the next wagon.”
Her ochre-tinged cameo, in my red lacquer jewelry box
came with the gift of her story: she played for no one, only
meadow rue & crown vetch, a mournful Nocturne, whose opening
notes fluttered like a mourning dove. All day long, German dances;
that night she sheltered under the piano in her boiled wool cloak.
Sought a stream at dawn’s light, found berries, chewed red clover, played
until her fingers cramped & she grew afraid. Day five, listless, she lay
in the Chickering’s shadow, aching with hunger, almost resigned.
Near dusk, the squeak of wheels. Tomas Guillaume, Acadian
fur trader, in an un-sprung cart, heading for La Louisiane.
Language no use to them, but his voice was kind, his tone amused.
No room for a piano. His gestures said he’d buy her one
some day. They shared bread & jerky, were wed with smiles & glances;
en route to the delta they traded words like pearls: faucon, falke.
A great love she bore him, the story goes, celebrated
especially in the field of the ruined piano; they’d return
in spring after selling the pelts. Soundboard cracked, keys warped,
music stranger each year, an off-kilter cascade echoing
Tom’s bayou fiddle & stomp, Henrietta’s labor cries,
the squeezebox of a girl whose great niece gave me the cameo.