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Whatcom READS: Creating community, one book at a time

By Janice Keller, Bellingham Public Library & Christine Perkins, Whatcom County Library System

The most powerful earthquake ever recorded struck Japan in 2011, triggering devastating tsunami waves.  Years later, debris from the wreckage continues to travel the ocean, winding up in places like Alaska and British Columbia.

Author Ruth Ozeki makes this the hook in her novel A Tale for the Time Being.  In the book, an author named Ruth discovers a diary — in a Hello Kitty lunchbox — washed up on the shores of her island home.

The diary is written by a 16-year-old girl named Nao, whose voice is direct, harsh and laden with teenage angst as she relates her sunny childhood in California and her family’s shameful return to Japan when her father loses his job.  Mystified by native Japanese culture and thrown into financial hardship, Nao struggles with loneliness and endures extreme bullying by her classmates before spending a summer with her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun.

 Meanwhile, Ruth becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Nao after the earthquake. She puzzles over the diary and the other contents of the Hello Kitty lunchbox, searching the Internet and peppering local translators for information.  But strange things happen as Ruth learns more about kamikaze pilots, Buddhism, quantum physics, and the ways that time and place are connected.

Throughout this brilliant, unforgettable novel, Ozeki intersperses humor and hope, historical detail and pop culture, reflections on island living, explorations of the notion of self, and the relationship between readers and authors.  It’s the perfect book to delve into with friends, neighbors and colleagues, which is why it was chosen for the 2016 Whatcom READS program.

About Whatcom READS 2016

Whatcom READS is our community’s reading and discussion program, encouraging all Whatcom County residents to read and create a county-wide book club experience. Now in its eighth year, it includes activities centered on the themes of one book culminating in free public presentations by the author.

A Tale for the Time Being author Ruth Ozeki is scheduled to visit our community during the first week of March 2016. Stay tuned for details about opportunities to hear her speak in Bellingham and other locations in Whatcom County.

An award-winning novelist, filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest, Ozeki also wrote My Year of Meats (1998) and All Over Creation (2003). If you like to dig into a great book and discuss and explore its themes, you’ll love A Tale for the Time Being, where dozens of thought-provoking topics are explored. Ozeki also is known as an interesting, inspiring speaker, so we’re very pleased to share her with our community.

Programs, contests and exhibits precede author’s visit

Why are we telling you about this now, if Ruth Ozeki isn’t visiting our area until next March?   Because we hope you’ll read the book now, share it with others and take advantage of related activities that begin this summer and continue until March 2016. Some are listed below, others will be announced later this year. Stay up to date at www.whatcomreads.org and www.facebook.com/whatcomreads

Writing contest: Have you struggled with difficult choices and their consequences? “Choices” is the theme of Whatcom WRITES 2016, following ideas found in A Tale for the Time Being. Submissions accepted through October 2015. Details at www.whatcomreads.org

Art challenge: Whatcom READS 2016 joins Allied Arts of Whatcom County to sponsor an art challenge inspired by A Tale for the Time Being. It’s easy: read the book, create an art piece, explain how the book inspired you, and submit your work to be exhibited. Details at www.whatcomreads.org and www.alliedarts.org

What page are YOU on?

A Tale for the Time Being is available in print, eBook, audiobook and large print at all public libraries throughout Whatcom County. You can even listen to it right away, by selecting the downloadable audiobook version marked “Instantly available on hoopla” in your online library catalog, where instant access is available to an unlimited number of simultaneous users. Or purchase the book from Village Books, and 10% of profits from the sale will be donated to Whatcom READS.

Whatcom READS 2016 is brought to you by all public and academic libraries in Whatcom County and Village Books, along with other local businesses and organizations. Let us know if you’d like to get involved! Contact information and more details at www.whatcomreads.org

Janice Keller is the Communications, Community Relations and Programming Manager for the Bellingham Public Library; Christine Perkins is the Executive Director for the Whatcom County Library System.

July 2015