Community reads program gives novel ‘Mary Coin’ the full 360 treatment

The cover of "Mary Coin" by Marisa Silver.
(Via Plume)

Each February, Friends of the Aptos Library puts a single book under the microscope, centering a series of events around that title. This year’s “Our Community Reads” novel imagines the backstory to Dorothea Lange’s famous Depression-era “Migrant Mother” photo.

This story was originally featured in this week’s Weekender newsletter. Be first the first to hear about arts and entertainment news in Santa Cruz County — sign up for Wallace’s email newsletter here and and text alerts here.

If you love books, you have to love what the Friends of the Aptos Library are doing to celebrate reading in February. Each year, the “Our Community Reads” program focuses on one title, encourages the community to read the book, and puts together a series of smart, even fun events centered on that single book.

This year’s book is the 2013 novel “Mary Coin,” which imagines a backstory for one of the most famous American photographs of the 20th century, Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother.”

Whether or not you can get your hands on a copy of the book, the “Our Community Reads” program is putting together a series of free events that will enhance your enjoyment of the book, or your interest in the period of the Great Depression, particularly how it was experienced in California.

Next week, in fact, the book’s author will be on hand in a Zoom event, free to the public, to talk about the themes and characters of the book. The online chat with Marisa Silver will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. Cabrillo College’s Geneffa Jonker will moderate. Some people are gathering at the Capitola Library for the event, but you can drop in from home. It’s free, but they need you to register.

What’s cool about this particular book is how it can open itself up to other art forms. Yes, there are the literary elements of it. But it is also about the power of photography as a documentary medium, which will be the subject of an event Feb. 9 featuring local photographers Kevin Painchaud, Shmuel Thaler and Mary Altier.

The Depression also had a deep influence on American music, a theme to be explored at a live folk concert featuring musicians Aileen Vance, Bob Reid, Judi Jaeger, Jack Bowers and Vicki Coffis. That goes down Feb. 5 at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Aptos.

There are film screenings of “Grapes of Wrath” and “Dolores,” workshops in art and writing, and even a trivia contest. We’ll keep you posted on all the events as they get closer.

This is the kind of attention and big-picture perspective all great novels deserve. Jump into this opportunity. The “Our Community Reads” program makes it easy. As for finding a copy of “Mary Coin,” you might have to get creative on that front.

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