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Big Read festival to be held in Las Cruces

The New Mexico State University Library will present The Big Read throughout the month of October which will see residents of Dona Ana County reading New Mexican author Rudolfo Anaya's "Bless Me, Ultima" and participating in related events.

The month-long Big Read will include a schedule of programs, book discussion groups, readings, music and dance performances, film showings, contests and other events and activities related to Anaya's novel and the culture it describes. All the events will take place in the Las Cruces area and will be free and open to the public.

The festival will feature two kickoff events. The first will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 5, at the Court Youth Center and will include a keynote address by award-winning Chicano poet Jimmy Santiago Baca of Albuquerque. Baca has devoted his life to writing, teaching and speaking about the power of literature and how it can change the lives of those overcoming hardship. The Ballet Folklorico de la Tierra del Encanto also will perform.

The second kickoff event will be at the Rio Grande Theatre at 3 p.m. Oct. 6 and will feature Cipriano Vigil y Familia of El Rito sharing stories and songs of northern New Mexico.

The aim of The Big Read is to celebrate and revitalize reading and to bring community residents of all ages together to discuss Anaya's classic New Mexican novel. The festival is sponsored by the NMSU Library in partnership with the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, the libraries of the Las Cruces Public Schools, the Dona Ana Arts Council, the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, the Storytellers of Las Cruces and many other project partners.

"I encourage everyone to get a copy of the book and join us in reading and celebrating 'Bless Me, Ultima,'" said Mardi Mahaffy, a humanities librarian at the NMSU Library.

Many book discussion groups focusing on themes in "Bless Me, Ultima" are scheduled during October at local libraries, cafes, bookstores and senior centers. Visit The Big Read Web site at http://lib.nmsu.edu/bigread/ for the full schedule of programs, book discussions, film screenings, contests, information about "Bless Me, Ultima" and Anaya, a writing workshop and more.

The local Big Read is a part of a national Big Read initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Arts Midwest.

For more information, call Mahaffy at (505) 646-6925 or the NMSU Library Reference Desk (505) 646-5792.