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The Big Read explores immigrants’ American Dream

The Big Read returns: @BrowardLibrary organizes Jan-Feb events for Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake.”

The annual community reading project known as the Big Read has its next title in Broward County: “The Namesake,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri.

In conjunction with the program, the Florida Center for the Book at Broward County Library has organized a series of discussions, seminars, dance, music and art events inspired by “The Namesake” in locations from Deerfield Beach to Pembroke Pines, beginning on Jan. 21.

A limited number of free copies of the book will be available for participants in the Big Read, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts in more than 70 communities across the U.S. The current edition of the Big Read, running from September 2016 to June 2017, includes a half-dozen communities in Florida. The Center for Literature and Theatre at Miami Dade College organized readings of “In the Shadow of the Banyan.”

Published in 2003, “The Namesake” follows Ashoke Ganguli, an engineer, and wife Ashima from their arranged marriage in tradition-bound Calcutta to a new life in Cambridge, Mass., and the challenges of a new son growing up in a strange culture.

In the New York Times, reviewer Michiko Kakutani described Lahiri’s “quietly dazzling” novel as “that rare thing: an intimate, closely observed family portrait that effortlessly and discreetly unfolds to disclose a capacious social vision. It is a novel about two generations of the Ganguli family, and at the same time it is a novel about exile and its discontents, a novel that is as affecting in its Chekhovian exploration of fathers and sons, parents and children, as it is resonant in its exploration of what is acquired and lost by immigrants and their children in pursuit of the American Dream.”

The Big Read kicks off on Jan. 21 with “Passport to India,” an afternoon of traditional and contemporary dance, music and art at the Northwest Regional Library, 3151 University Drive, in Coral Springs. The 1-4 p.m. events are sponsored by the Association of Performing Arts of India.

Other Big Read kickoff events on Jan. 21 will take place at Young at Art Museum/Broward County Library, 751 SW 121 Ave., in Davie, and in the Creation Station at the Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Big Read book discussions, poetry readings, political talks and more music, art and dance continue through Feb. 28. For more information, visit

The Florida Center for the Book also is gathering local immigrant stories for the Big Read Florida Memories Project. E-mail your story about your transition to life in Florida in 800 to 1,000 words to All entrants receive a free copy of “The Namesake.” 

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