E. Ethelbert Miller


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     DC WE READ : Must Read List



                           Howard Writer on D.C.'s Must-Read List
                                        'Fathering Words'
           Is Public Library's Selection for City Residents This Year

By Manny Fernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, April 8, 2003; Page B05

     E. Ethelbert Miller and his sister Marie Hunter

         Patricia Pasqual wants Washingtonians to do something together in these trying times: sit down and read a book.   So Pasqual and other officials at the D.C. public library selected a title they hope many of the city's 572,000 residents will read, and they think the shared experience could help decrease the District's high illiteracy rate and foster a sense of civic togetherness."There's a need to sort of bond with neighbors at a time like this," said Pasqual, the library's coordinator of D.C. We Read, a citywide reading campaign launched last year to get D.C. youths to read the same book at the same time.  

      Yesterday morning, Pasqual helped unveil this year's selection inside a
meeting room at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, lifting a black
cloth draped over a small poster bearing the name of the book chosen by a
library committee.

     The book is E. Ethelbert Miller's "Fathering Words: The Making of an African American Writer," the D.C. author's 2000 account of how, years ago, he discovered his poetic voice and coped with the deaths of his brother and father. Miller, 52, who was born in New York's South Bronx and has lived in Washington since 1968, is a poet and director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University.

     "It's a high honor," said Miller, who spoke after the unveiling. He said he hoped his book would inspire others to read and to write. "Being a writer today is just as important as being a doctor or an engineer," he said.

     Library officials have designated his book as recommended reading and hope it will be the focus of discussions in May at neighborhood libraries, during online and in-person author chats and at video presentations.  The mass read-in is the sequel to last year's campaign, which centered on "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years," a best-selling 1993 oral history of two centenarian African American sisters. The effort was modeled on community readings that gained national attention in other cities in recent years, including Chicago, which is credited with boosting the popularity of the movement in 2001 with Harper Lee's 1960 classic "To Kill a Mockingbird."

     D.C. library officials described last year's event as a success. About 1,400 hardcover and paperback copies of "Having Our Say" were donated to the library by the book's hardcover publisher and by Washington Gas. Hundreds of people attended library-sponsored author events, film screenings and discussion groups, officials said. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) led a discussion group in June at N Street Village, which provides services to homeless women.

     Library officials said they do not know how many times the book was checked out last summer but said the program provides a much-needed boost for the struggling library system. Officials recently announced that most of the city's 27 public libraries would shut their doors one additional day a week and reduce their hours because of budget cuts. If further cuts were approved, two branches would have to close.

     Of this year's reading campaign, however, library spokeswoman Monica Lofton said, "With the illiteracy rate what it is in the city, you really can't









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