Friday, Sep 07 2012 10:43 AM

Classic book about identity focus of community read

BY ASHLEY FISCHER Contributing writer

Be it at bedsides, in coffee shops or around campfires, the written word truly comes to life when it is shared with others.

And it is in that dynamic, discursive spirit that One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern returns for its 10th year, with its selection of Sandra Cisneros' acclaimed first novel, "The House on Mango Street."

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Events free, unless otherwise noted

Sept. 13: Kickoff event, with guest speakers, a theatrical scene and tour, 11 a.m., Noriega House, 1325 Baker St. 633-9016.

Sept 13: Opening of "Paul Strand: The Mexican Portfolio," featuring photos of Mexico in the early 1930s, 6 p.m., Bakersfield Museum of Art, 1930 R St. $5; $4, seniors; $2, students. 323-7219.

Sept. 17, 19: The (In)Visible Memoirs Project Bakersfield, memoir workshops led by Nick Belardes of Random Writers, 7 p.m. Mondays (Sept. 17 to Nov. 19) or Wednesdays (Sept. 19 to Nov. 21), location and pricing to be determined. Email for details.

Sept. 27: Una Noche de Celebracion, Latina leaders celebrate "The House on Mango Street" with an evening of selected bilingual vignettes from the book, 7 p.m., Beale Memorial Library, 701 Truxtun Ave. 868-0745.

Oct. 11: Local Latina Success Stories: Why This is Now the Norm, with Olivia Garcia, editor of Bakersfield Life magazine; Irma Cervantes, television host at Univision; Ida Tagliente, executive director of the Kern Adult Literacy Council; and Maria Mercado, director of "The House on Mango Street" play, 6 p.m., Russo's Books, 9000 Ming Ave. 665-1643.

Oct. 13: Poetas de Cultura, with musician and storyteller Martin Espino, 10:30 a.m., Ridgecrest Branch Library, 131 E. Las Flores Ave., 760-384-5870; and 3 p.m., Tehachapi Branch Library, 1001 W. Tehachapi Blvd., Suite A-400, 822-4938.

Oct. 14: Guelaguetza 2012, celebrating Oaxacan culture with folkloric dance, music, crafts and food, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., CSUB OutdoorAmphitheatre, 9001 Stockdale Highway. $7, free for children under 12. 778-9159 or

Oct. 18: "Windows on Mango Street," art opening at 7 p.m.; Mango Street Poetry Slam, local poets and writers are invited to compete for cash, The Empty Space, 706 Oak St. $10; $5 to compete in slam. Call Jesus Fidel at 703-8666 for details.

Oct. 20: Rites of Passage: Writing Coming of Age Stories, fiction writing session with Nick Belardes from Random Writers, 1 p.m., Beale Memorial Library, 701 Truxtun Ave. 868-0745.

Oct. 20: Mango Street Vignettes, dramatic readings and discussion, 2 p.m., Tehachapi Branch Library, 1001 W. Tehachapi Blvd., Suite A-400. 822-4938.

Oct. 23: A Place Called Home, book discussion for teens; led by Thomas Robinson of Russo's Books and Mark Olsen from Independence High School, 4 p.m., Russo's Books, 9000 Ming Ave. 665-1643.

Oct. 25: Art in the Afternoon: Draw Your Home, children's art activity, 4 p.m., Beale Memorial Library, 701 Truxtun Ave. 868-0745.

Oct. 25: Mango Street Monologues, actors will perform, with art, music, refreshments; for mature audiences. The Empty Space, 706 Oak St. $10. Contact Kevin Shah at 832-8112 for details.

Oct. 26: Personal Stories, writers will present poetry and prose as well as excerpts from "The House on Mango Street," 6 p.m., Beale Memorial Library, 701 Truxtun Ave. 868-0745.

Oct. 27: Creative writing workshop, inspired by "The House on Mango Street" and led by writer and teacher Kevin Shah, 11 a.m., Beale Memorial Library, 701 Truxtun Ave. 868-0745.

Nov. 1 to 17: "The House on Mango Street," the play, Spotlight Theatre, 1622 19th St., Spotlight Theatre, 1622 19th St.. $18; $15 children under 12. Call 665-1643 for showtimes.

Nov. 2: Dia De Los Muertos Expo, featuring community shrines, live music, folkloric dancers, painters, puppeteers and other performing artists, 4 p.m., Golden State Mall, 3201 F St. 345-5842.

Nov. 2: Altares de Familia, a Día De Los Muertos celebration with family altars, Mexican cuisine, music and dance acts, crafts, vendor booths and more, 5 p.m., Bakersfield Museum of Art, 1930 R St. $1, free for children under 6. 323-7219.

Nov. 3: Genealogy of Mexican Heritage, Alicia Davila De Laurie will describe the search for her roots portrayed in her book "The Cactus on My Forehead, Your Mexican Heritage" and Kern County Genealogical Society members will help participants start their own family history research, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Beale Memorial Library, 701 Truxtun Ave. 868-0745.

Nov. 8: Evening With the Author: Sandra Cisneros, discussion and book signing, 7 p.m., CSUB Icardo Center, Cal State Bakersfield, 9001 Stockdale Highway. 654-6281.

Nov. 10: Family Stories of Historic Houses in Kern County, librarian Chris Livingston will present the family legacies behind well-known historic Kern residences such as Lopez House, Guild House and Noriega House, 11 a.m., Beale Memorial Library, 701 Truxtun Ave., 868-0745.

Family storytimes

A family hour of stories, songs and crafts

11 a.m. Sept. 25, Beale Memorial Library, 701 Truxtun Ave. 868-0745.

11:30 a.m. Oct. 2, Frazier Park Branch Library, 3732 Park Drive, Frazier Park. 245-1267.

11 a.m. Oct. 10, Southwest Branch Library, 8301 Ming Ave. 664-7716.

11:30 a.m. Oct. 18, Tehachapi Branch Library, 1001 W. Tehachapi Blvd., Suite A-400, Tehachapi. 822-4938.

5:30 p.m. Nov. 7, Wilson Branch Library, 1901 Wilson Road. 834-4044.

Community book discussions

11 a.m. Sept. 14, Wasco Branch Library, 1102 Seventh St., Wasco. 758-2114.

3 p.m. Oct. 12, McFarland Branch Library, 500 W. Kern Ave., McFarland. 792-2318.

6 p.m. Oct. 12, Kern River Valley Branch Library, 7054 Lake Isabella Blvd., Lake Isabella. 760-549-2083.

3 p.m. Oct. 13, Delano Branch Library, 925 10th Ave., Delano. 725-1078.

5:30 p.m. Oct. 18, Southwest Branch Library, 8301 Ming Ave. 664-7716.

The community read, begun by a Bakersfield teacher inspired by other mass reading programs, is orchestrated by the Kern County Library in conjunction with Cal State Bakersfield.

Coinciding with National Hispanic Heritage Month, this year's book was selected by Emerson Case, an English professor and founder of CSUB's First Year Experience program, which will require all incoming freshmen to read "The House on Mango Street" right along with the rest of the community.

Case, who first read the book when he was an undergraduate himself, chose Cisneros' collection of brief vignettes because of its deft exploration of many universal themes, such as the acute pains of adolescence, as well as struggling to find one's place in the world.

"It's important to find that right kind of book, one that's very accessible," he said. "This story is about somebody making their transition into adulthood, which is a theme especially important for the freshmen reading this, who are making a transition themselves. At the same time, the idea of 'home' and what it means is something everybody can relate to."

The ability of "Mango Street" to transcend age, culture and ethnicity is pivotal because One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern isn't simply about getting people to read -- it's about striking up a conversation; it's about creating a dialogue with people with whom you might never have spoken.

"The idea is to take one book, one great book that kind of has timeless themes, and then use that as a vehicle in your given town to get everybody reading at the same time," said Kristie Coons, a coordinator of the read. "In addition to reading, we want people thinking and discussing how those themes resonate with themselves individually, and with the community as a whole."

Which is precisely why this community-wide experience is bolstered with three months of public events, ranging from plays and poetry slams to Dia de los Muertos celebrations to community book discussions.

Everything kicks off Thursday at Noriega House and culminates on Nov. 8, when Cisneros herself will speak on campus at CSUB. Hoping to involve as many members of the community as possible, many of the events are free, or cost very little to attend.

Also, the library has stocked up on its stores of "Mango Street," ordering an additional 100 copies in English, as well as 50 copies in Spanish. Anyone hoping to read the book can check out a copy at any of the branches of the Kern County Library, and throughout the San Joaquin Valley Library System.

High school readers

Completing this city-wide reading circle are Mark Olsen's senior English classes at Independence High School, which will be reading the book over the course of the fall semester.

For Olsen, participation in the program is completely voluntary; he was persuaded to become involved because he feels One Book provides his students with an invaluable opportunity to learn about themselves through literature, while also becoming acquainted with the sort of work that awaits them in college.

"The students who participate in this do really well," he said. "Through this program they're getting all of this exposure to university life, as well as community experience and participation. There isn't anything that I don't like about this."

But for everyone involved, the true high point of the entire One Book, One Bakersfield, One Kern experience is when students and community members alike have the opportunity to meet and interact with the author.

For Case, an author's willingness to come to Bakersfield and speak is integral when selecting a book for the program, and the key to making what could simply be a bunch of people sitting and reading a book a truly unforgettable experience.

"The fact that students and people in the community have the opportunity to hear the author speaking to them and interacting with them -- that's the part that makes this program really work. The thought that this person that they've been reading and thinking about for four months would take the time to talk to them and ask them their name is what makes this a truly life-changing event."

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