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Posted on: January 14, 2019

Anaheim explores epic story of race, injustice as community reads ‘A Lesson Before Dying’

NEA Big Read 2019

ANAHEIM, Calif. (Jan. 14, 2019) — A gripping story that tackles the intersection of race and criminal justice will help Anaheim honor Black History Month as the city comes together to read Ernest J. Gaines’ “A Lesson Before Dying.”

From Feb. 16 to March 16, Anaheim Public Library will led a communitywide reading and exploration of the 1993 novel, which celebrates the heroism of resisting and defying the expected.

Throughout the month, Anaheim Library will give out copies of “A Lesson Before Dying,” lead book and panel discussions and host story times focused on Black History Month.

It’s all part of the National Endowment of the Arts Big Read program, a national program to promote reading across America.

 “A Lesson Before Dying” is set in the late 1940s in the fictional town of Bayonne, La. The novel depicts the struggle of a young black man convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit.

The powerful tale provides a vivid historical perspective on the themes of race, crime and injustice in the United States.

Gaines, a native of Louisiana, was inspired by his hometown of Oscar north of Baton Rouge. Now 86, Gaines grew up in the post-Civil War South, where the undercurrents of slavery were slow to change.

Residents can read “A Lesson Before Dying” and join in a series of events by Anaheim Public Library and other community groups from Feb. 16 through March 16.

Anaheim Library will bring the story to life with programs for all ages and community presentations led by the California Innocence Project, Project Rebound and the Heritage Museum of Orange County.

Kick off the celebration with live jazz music, soul food by Georgia’s Restaurant and the award-winning young adult author and speaker Brandy Colbert at Central Library on Feb. 16 at 2 p.m.

Colbert’s “Little & Lion” is a contemporary story that explores a teen’s identity, mental health and internal struggle. “Little & Lion” is the winner of the American Library Association’s Stonewall Book Award and was named the American Library Association’s Best Fiction
for Young Adults in 2018.

“Little & Lion” is the teen companion book for “A Lesson Before Dying.” Copies of both books will be given away at the event and are available for unlimited eBook download through your Anaheim Library card.

The month-long celebration is made possible by a $15,000 NEA Big Read grant. NEA Big Read book picks are designed to bring communities together through the shared experience of reading.

This is the fourth year in a row that Anaheim Library has taken part in the NEA Big Read.

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