The 2020 Washtenaw Reads program is bringing Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas to town on Jan. 30.
Vargas will give a lecture and lead a discussion about his memoir, "Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen," at Washtenaw Community College's Towsley Auditiorium from 7-8:30 p.m. The Washtenaw Reads program is an annual collaboration between libraries countywide that encourages county residents to read and discuss a selected book.
"Vargas’ visit to Ann Arbor is the highlight of this year’s Washtenaw Reads," says Julianne Smith, assistant director of the Ypsilanti District Library and Washtenaw Reads steering committee member. "... Any time you have a Pulitzer-winning author visit, it’s pretty exciting stuff, and the story that Vargas shares is a very relevant and timely consideration for all of us."
Smith believes the issues that Vargas addresses, such as psychological homelessness, carry wide appeal. Vargas has written that his book is not about the politics of immigration, but rather how hiding from the government forces us to hide from ourselves.
"Any time we can bring people together from across the community to learn from each other, we are nurturing civic dialogue, which supports equity, a greater understanding of other people’s viewpoints, and can help move all of us toward positive change," Smith says.
The Washtenaw Reads committee also takes into account whether books are available in paperback and if the authors are willing to come to town.
"Hearing firsthand from any given author is a real highlight to the program," Smith says. "It allows attendees to hear back-stories, learn about how a book came to be, and listen to the author’s thoughts and experiences that may not be written about in the actual book."
Smith stresses that Vargas' lecture is open to everyone, even those who have not read his book. Attendees will also have the chance to buy "Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen" at the lecture and and get it signed by Vargas.
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Ypsilanti District Library.