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The Big Read: A Community Shared Reading Program Powered by the National Endowment for the Arts

The Center celebrates reading February 5 - March 5, 2015, with The Big Read, featuring events and activities inspired by the novel, When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. Events include a visit to the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, book discussions, author lectures, haiku poetry workshops for teens, and a discussion of the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII and how this chapter in our history relates to other civil rights violations past and present.

In When the Emperor Was Divine, Otsuka addresses themes of race, identity, loyalty and patriotism. In her sparse and beautiful prose, she quietly reveals the ugly underbelly of being "other" in a country which both embraces and rejects its immigrant self.

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, designed to revitalize the role of reading in American culture.

Call 305-237-3940 for a full list of events and to request a free book.

Click here for additional resources and further reading.

Event Highlights

Thursday, February 5
7:00 p.m. │ Lyric Theater, 819 NW Second Ave., Miami

Big Read Kick Off!
Visiting Author, Historian and Activist Dr. Peniel E. Joseph on Why #BlackLivesStillMatter: Reimagining the Civil Rights Movement in the Age of Obama and Ferguson

Join us for a conversation on Why #BlackLivesStillMatter: Reimagining the Civil Rights Movement in the Age of Obama and Ferguson with celebrated civil rights chronicler, Dr. Peniel E. Joseph, as we delve into the moral and ethical issues of our day. Dr. Joseph is Professor of History at Tufts University and the author of the award-winning Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America. He is a frequent national commentator on issues of race, democracy and civil rights who appears on C-SPAN's Book TV, NPR, and PBS's NewsHour. During the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, Dr. Joseph provided historical commentary for the PBS NewsHour. His most recent book is Stokely: A Life.

Presented in partnership with MDC Kendall Campus, The Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex in the Overtown neighborhood of Miami, and Books & Books.

Click here to RSVP for this event.

Saturday, February 14
12:00 – 4:00 p.m. │ MDC Museum of Art + Design, Freedom Tower, 600 Biscayne Blvd., Downtown Miami

The Big Read's Big Knit!
Knit for Me, Haiku for You with Mixed Media Artist Carlos Alejandro

Write haikus or very short poems or sentences about "hope" on strips of fabric. Keep a strip for yourself and weave the other one into the community chain, knit by artist Carlos Alejandro to form a chain of collective well-wishing.

Participants will learn simple knitting techniques.

Free copies of The Big Read 2015 official title, When the Emperor Was Divine will be given to participants.

Knit for Me, Haiku for You is inspired by 90 Miles: A Project by Carlos Alejandro, Free. Presented in partnership with MDC MOA+D and WAIL (Word And Image Lab)

Saturday, February 21
10 a.m. - 5 p.m. │ Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, 4000 Morikami Park Rd., Delray Beach

Road Trip To Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Hop on the bus with fellow Big Readers for a trip to Delray Beach — a day of learning about Japanese culture and the history of the 100-year-old connection between Japan and South Florida, including an event in Florida history that is directly related to the subject of this year's Big Read title, When The Emperor Was Divine. In May of 1942, during World War II, farmland in the Yamato area (where the Morikami Museum now stands) that was still owned by Japanese settlers was confiscated by the U. S. government for a military installation.

Take a guided tour and experience the splendor of the Morikami's six distinct gardens and the museum that complements them. The gardens, named Roji-en: Garden of the Drops of Dew, were designed to be a living exhibit with abundant viewpoints that give you a chance to stop and enjoy your surroundings.

The museum's galleries play host to several exhibitions of Japanese art and artifacts throughout the year featuring different aspects of Japan's rich and diverse culture. To learn more about the museum, visit

The Center will rent a motorcoach to provide FREE transportation. All participants will receive a free copy of When the Emperor Was Divine.

Space is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Deadline to register: Feb. 14, 2015
Meet at MDC Wolfson Campus at 9 a.m. / Bus leaves at 9:30 a.m. For more information, please call 305-237-3940.

Museum entry: $12 for non-MDC students. $8 for MDC students with Center staff approval, call 305-237.3940. (Regular price of museum entry $15)

Students who would like to visit the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens must fill out a Student Delegate Contract. Contracts are available at all student life offices and must be signed by the student life director. A copy of the signed contract needs to be given to Paola Fernandez Rana at The Center for Writing and Literature by the morning of the Saturday, February 21.

Register for The Big Read Road Trip to Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens: $12

REGISTRATION CLOSED. For more information, please call Marci at 305.237.3940.

Wednesday, February 25
6:30 p.m. | Books & Books, 265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables

Big Read Keynote
Author David Mura on Japanese American Internment During WWII

David Mura is a writer, memoirist, poet and performance artist who brings a unique perspective to our multi-racial and multi-cultural society. A Sansei or third-generation Japanese American, Mura has written two memoirs: Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei, which won a 1991 Josephine Miles Book Award from the Oakland PEN and was listed in the New York Times Notable Books of Year, and Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity. Mura's second book of poetry, The Colors of Desire, won the Carl Sandburg Literary Award from the Friends of the Chicago Public Library.

Mura's memoirs, poems essays, plays and performances have won wide critical praise and numerous awards. Their topics range from contemporary Japan to the legacy of the internment camps and the history of Japanese Americans, to critical explorations of an increasingly diverse America.

Ongoing Big Read Events

February 5 - March 5
Follow us on Pinterest and check out our Big Read boards! We'll be celebrating all things Japanese and much more. You can also be a part of our Big Read Twitter chats and get up-to-date info on all of our upcoming events. Join in the fun on Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr too! #NEABigRead

Facebook: /TheCenteratMDC
Twitter: @thecenteratmdc
Pinterest: /thecenteratmdc
Instagram: @miamibookfair

February 5 - March 5
Various dates, times and locations
Discussions on When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka will take place at various branches of the Miami-Dade Public Library System. Visit for exact information.

The Big Read Big Book Giveaway
Want to join The Big Read? The Center will give away copies of When the Emperor Was Divine throughout the month. Come to our Big Read events, "like" us on Facebook or Tweet us, or sign up for our newsletter.

Haiku Poetry Takeover!
The Miami Poetry Collective is sending poets to 10 high school classes for a one-day Haiku Takeover in partnership with Miami Dade County Public Schools. The poets will teach mini-workshops on haiku and other various forms of short Japanese poetry. For more information and details, call us at 305-237-3940.