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
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