News Release: Community Invited to Participate in Two Months of Special Events

September 4, 2017


The Jackson-Madison County Library to Kick Off The Big Read

Community Invited to Participate in Two Months of Special Events



JACKSON, Tenn. -  The Jackson-Madison County Library will kick off two months of special events and programs at 11 am on Sat., Sept. 9 at the Main Library as part of The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest that aims to inspire conversation and discovery through the joy of sharing a good book. 


The Big Read in the Jackson-Madison County area will focus on the novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, with weekly activities and events taking place throughout September and October. As part of the program, copies of the novel will be made widely available throughout the community, as well as through the schools for use by teachers. In addition, two companion books for younger audiences, Blackout by John Rocco, and The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau, will make The Big Read something the entire family can enjoy together.


“The goal of The Big Read is to encourage people to take time to enjoy a great book,” said Jenci Spradlin, adult services librarian and project coordinator for The Big Read. “Our programs and events play off key themes within the novel and offer something for everyone, including children and teens. We hope this combination of book discussions and events will inspire people to take part in this exciting program.”


The Library is one of 75 nonprofit organizations to receive a NEA Big Read grant to host this community reading program, providing the community the opportunity to connect to one another in a variety of creative ways around a contemporary novel that was named one of the best books of 2014 by more than a dozen publications, including winning the Arthur C. Clark Award and being a finalist for the National Book Award.


Free copies of Station Eleven, as well as the other companion titles, will be distributed during the Kickoff Party and copies will also be available for checkout as well as digital download. Mayor Jerry Gist will read Blackout to children and several local personalities will perform pop songs reinterpreted as Shakespearean sonnets.  At 12:30 pm, there will be a screening of the inspiring and award-winning documentary Landfill Harmonic that tells the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Caturea, a Paraguayan musical group that plays instruments made entirely out of garbage. During the screening, children can make a drum using snack cans courtesy of Sonoco.


Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic novel that tells the story of a small band of actors and musicians 20 years after a flu pandemic has wiped out 99% of the Earth’s population. Calling themselves the Traveling Symphony, they roam settlements of survivors performing classical music and Shakespearean plays, dedicated to keeping art and humanity alive. When the Traveling Symphony returns to reunite with a couple and their baby who were once part of the troupe, their lives are threatened by a dangerous prophet and head of a doomsday cult. Station Eleven is ultimately a hopeful book and it’s a reminder that art – a play, a comic book, a musical interlude and even an apocalyptic novel – can be the best means towards cultivating a civilization and preserving our humanity.


“With the Jackson Arts Council celebrating its 50-year anniversary this year, it is a wonderful time for the community to come together to read the novel and to talk about the importance of the arts and how the arts make the area a better place to live,” continued Spradlin. “The motto of the Traveling Symphony and what Mandel calls the thesis of the novel is taken from an episode of Star Trek Voyager: ‘Survival is insufficient.’ When you think about times we have faced disasters and adversities, our response is much more than survival. That was most recently exemplified by the viral video of a woman singing gospel songs in one of the shelters set up for those displaced by Hurricane Harvey. The arts remind us of our connection to one another.”


All programs are free and will include multiple opportunities for the community to gather to discuss the novel in book discussion groups, as well as to attend informative presentations on history, technology and media, and pandemics. Area professors will present a panel discussion on the novel’s themes at a Keynote Presentation at the University of Memphis Lambuth on Oct. 10. There will be a screening of the episode of Star Trek Voyager that inspired the motto of The Traveling Symphony on Sept. 28 and Beer with the Bard, a Shakespearean-themed Pub Crawl on Sept. 29. Under the direction of local actress Leah Fincher, the community can enjoy the area’s first Shakespeare in the Park, with the full-length production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) to be held outdoors at both The Suites of Larue Oct. 19-21 and The Amp Oct. 22.  The program will conclude with a special performance by the Tennessee Shakespeare Company of its original production of Shake(s), Rattle & Roll, a show that lovingly links the signature music of Memphis to the works of Shakespeare, to be held in the Tigrett Auditorium at Community Montessori School on Oct. 26 at 6:30 pm. The Tennessee Shakespeare Company, based out of Germantown, Tenn., performs this 45-minute show, among others, throughout the year to school children in the Memphis/Shelby County area. This will be their first time performing in Jackson.


The entire listing of special events and book discussions, as well as details about The Big Read and Station Eleven can be found on the new Big Read website at The site was created as a special project of four local high school students as part of the Dev Catalyst program at TheCO.  [SEE FULL EVENT LISTING BELOW OR VISIT THE EVENTS PAGE]


Participants in several activities can win an Amazon Kindle Fire tablet. A twitter contest called MadCo GO! will encourage people to not only attend Big Read events, but to visit area cultural and historical sites and attend arts-related events taking place in the community. At each stop, taking a selfie and using the hashtag #JMCReads will award the player points towards winning the Kindle Fire. There will also be a drawing for the second Kindle Fire for those who visit all stops on the Beer with the Bard Shakespearean Pub Crawl on Sept. 29. As part of the Comic Book and Graphic Novel Fandom Event at Nerdvana on Oct. 21, all ages will be encouraged to create their own comic, with winners in various age categories receiving a Nerdvana gift card. Details about these contests can also be found on the Big Read website.


The Library has partnered with many local organizations to create and promote The Big Read. These partners include the Jackson Arts Council, the Jackson Downtown Development Corporation, the Jackson-Madison County School System, The CO, Jackson State Community College, the University of Memphis Lambuth Campus, the City of Jackson and Freed Hardeman University.


Matching funds for the NEA Big Read grant are being provided by the Jackson-Madison County Library, the Library Foundation, the West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation, the Friends of the Library and the Joseph E. Martin Shakespeare Circle, with numerous in-kind contributions of venue space, promotional assistance, professional expertise and volunteers.



The following information was taken from the NEA Big Read Reader Resources guide on Station Eleven and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License:


Emily St. John Mandel (her middle name, St. John, was her grandmother's surname) was born on Vancouver Island in 1979 and raised mostly on Denman Island, a small, bucolic island off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. Known for its natural beauty, laid-back feel, and thriving arts community, the island is home to just over 1,000 inhabitants. Mandel's father emigrated from the U.S. and worked on the island as a plumber; her Canadian mother works for an organization that assists victims of domestic violence and is active in the labor movement. Both loved to read and for no reason other than to provide the best education they could, they homeschooled Mandel, encouraging her to write every day.


Mandel settled in New York and wrote, working part-time as an administrative assistant at a cancer research lab at a university to pay the bills. Her agent found the manuscript for her first novel, Last Night in Montreal (2009), in a slush pile and shopped it around to editors for almost three years before Unbridled Books picked it up. Like many small presses that nurture talented writers overlooked by commercial houses and help them get discovered, Unbridled Books went on to publish two more of her critically acclaimed novels in the genre of literary noir: The Singer's Gun (2010), about a young man trying to remake himself after growing up in a family of criminals, and The Lola Quartet (2012), a jazz-infused mystery about a man searching for an old girlfriend and a daughter who might be his.


In 2014, Mandel published Station Eleven, her fourth novel, with Knopf and her writing career took off at rocket speed. The novel won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, was a finalist for the National Book Award and PEN/Faulkner Award, was an Amazon Best Book of the Month, was named one of the best books of the year by more than a dozen publications, and has been translated into 27 languages. In less than two years, she has participated in more than 125 book tour events in seven countries.


Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic novel that tells the story of a small band of actors and musicians 20 years after a flu pandemic has wiped out 99% of the Earth’s population. Like other books in the genre, it highlights the fragility of our existence, our violent nature and our capacity to survive despite the inevitable hardships of starvation, loneliness and chaos; however, this is where the similarities taper off, for the story Mandel chooses to tell is not one of horror and mayhem, but a world of hope, of people coping with nostalgia and loss, both in the present and the future, of the power of art and relationships to fulfill us, sustain us, and nurture us back to our best selves.





Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,400 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $19 million in grants to organizations nationwide. In addition, Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past eleven years, grantees have leveraged more than $42 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 4.8 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, approximately 79,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and 37,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible. Last summer, the NEA announced a new focus for the NEA Big Read Library on contemporary authors and books written since the NEA was founded 50 years ago. For more information about the NEA Big Read, please visit


Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit to learn more about NEA.


Arts Midwest promotes creativity, nurtures cultural leadership, and engages people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, please visit


The Jackson-Madison County Library is located at 433 E. Lafayette St. in downtown Jackson.  For more information, visit the Library’s Facebook page at or The Big Read website at 






Events for All Ages Planned for The Big Read

September 7 – Oct. 26, 2017


Join our community in The Big Read, as we come together for a variety of exciting free events and programs for all ages. Visit our Big Read website for event listings, reader guides and special features.


September 7th | Noon | Main Library

Friends of the Library Noon Review
Learn how to lead a book discussion and sign up to get a book club kit to host your own book discussion group.

September 9th | 11 – 2 | Main Library

The Big Read Kick-Off Event

Get your copy of Station Eleven, enjoy performances of Shakespearean sonnets by local personalities, story time with Mayor Gist, and a screening of the award-winning documentary, Landfill Harmonic. The film follows the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, a Paraguayan musical group that plays instruments made entirely out of garbage. During the screening, make a drum from a recycled snack can courtesy of Sonoco. We will also have copies of our two Big Read companion titles for children and youth: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau and Blackout by John Rocco.

September 12th | 11:30 – 12:30 | The CO

CO:mmunicate @ the CO
Is no news good news? What if we had no means of knowing about what was happening across the country or globe, much less across town? A panel of local media personalities and professionals will discuss access to information and how that shapes our individual and collective lives.

September 19th | 6:00 | Main Library
History: What We Choose to Remember and Why
Discussion led by historian and genealogist Jack Wood. Explore our “Museum of Civilization” curated with items from library staff. Participate in a living museum experience by bringing an item that answers the question, “What would you save if the world ended tomorrow?” Share your items and your story with others. Let us also capture your history in our digital history project by answering a few questions about yourself and your history to be a part of our digital archives. Book discussion to follow.


September 23rd | 9:00 – 5:00 | Art in the Village
Mask Making at the Colors of Fall Art Festival
Come out to the Colors of Fall Art Festival at Art in the Village and make your own theatrical mask at our hands-on activity booth.

September 28th | 6:00 | Main Library
Survival is Insufficient: Screening of Star Trek Voyager
Watch the episode of Star Trek Voyager that inspired the motto of The Traveling Symphony and also enjoy Star Trek themed activities.


September 29th | 5:00 | Downtown Jackson
Beer with the Bard: Shakespearean Pub Crawl
Enjoy traveling throughout downtown Jackson to visit several of our local watering holes and fine-tine your Shakespearean insult game.


September 30th | Downtown Jackson
Jackson International Food & Arts Festival
Visit our booth at the Jackson International Food and Arts Festival to contribute to our community art project and take our “Blackout” challenge. Pledge to put away the technology for one evening and read.


October 5th | 6:00 | Main Library

Could You Survive a Global Pandemic?
The American Red Cross’s Pillowcase Project is a fun and educational way for children to learn how to prepare for any type of disaster. At the same time, adults will hear from a panel of local experts about disaster preparation.


October 7th | 2:00 – 3:00 | Main Library
I Heart the Arts Makerspace Event
Check out the Makerspace at the Main Library as we create using our 3D printer and more.

October 10th | 6:00 | University of Memphis Lambuth Campus
Keynote Panel Presentation
Members of our local academic community will present a panel discussion about the literary themes found in Station Eleven with a book discussion to follow.


October 14th | First Presbyterian Church
Instrument Petting Zoo at the Starlight Symphony
Amro Music will have a variety of instruments set up at the Jackson Symphony’s annual Starlight Symphony event for you to touch and play.


October 19th – 22nd | The Suites of Larue (7:30) & The Amp (3:00)

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)
Enjoy Shakespeare under the stars with this humorous full-length production that parodies the plays of William Shakespeare. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets. The show will be performed by local actors Oct. 19 – 21 at the Suites of Larue at 7:30 p.m. and on Oct. 22 at the Amp at 3:00.


October 21st – 22nd | the CO
See how local artists interpret The Traveling Symphony’s motto, “Survival is Insufficient” and check out all the cool things happening at the CO.

October 21st | 1:00 – 4:00 | Nerdvana
Comic Book & Graphic Novel Fandom Event
Why are comics and graphic novels so popular? What’s happening with your favorite series? Join in on the conversation with a fandom discussion at 1:30 and a book discussion on the role the fictional graphic novel plays in Station Eleven at 2:30. Create your own comic too and enter to win a Nerdvana gift card.


October 26th | 6:30 | Community Montessori School

Tennessee Shakespeare Company Presents: “Shake(s), Rattle & Roll”
Shake(s), Rattle & Roll pays tribute to our regional music heritage.  This show lovingly links the signature music of Memphis to the works of Shakespeare that (we imagine) inspired them.  You will discover chart-topping, toe-tapping, foot-stomping, got-t​o-​jump-out-of-your-seat-and-move-with-it SHAKESPEARE!  Enjoy a whirlwind of scenes and soliloquies sure to make you want to SHOUT in this 45-minute performance for all ages by actors with the Tennessee Shakespeare Company.



Come Discuss the Book With Us!


Free copies of Station Eleven will be distributed during The Big Read Kickoff Event on Sept. 9 at the Main Library while supplies last, and hundreds of additional copies will be available for checkout and electronic download. Anyone is welcome to attend a book discussion. Advanced registration is not required. If your book club would like to read Station Eleven, you can reserve a book club kit too! Contact Jenci Spradlin at or call 425-8600.


9/13 Main Library @ Noon

9/14 Woodstock on the Square @ 7:30 am

9/19 Following the History discussion @ the Main Library

9/20 Main Library @ Noon

9/22 North Branch @ 10:00 am

9/25 Snappy Tomato Pizza South @ 5:30 pm

9/27 Main Library @ Noon

9/29 North Branch @ 10:00 am

10/2 Woodstock on the Square @ 7:30 am

10/4 Main Library @ Noon

10/6 North Branch @ 10:00 am

10/10 Following the Keynote event @ U of M Lambuth

10/11 Main Library @ Noon

10/12 North Branch @ 5:00 pm

10/13 North Branch @ 10:00 am

10/16 Main Library @ 6:00 pm

10/18 Main Library @ Noon

10/21 During Comic & Graphic Novel Event, 2:30 @ Nerdvana

10/23 Snappy Tomato Pizza South @ 5:30

10/25 Main Library @ Noon




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