The Big Read In Knoxville

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By Michael K. Smith, Ph.D.



Ernest Gaines’ novel A Lesson Before Dying (see book review in this issue) has been chosen to celebrate The Big Read in Knoxville, February 5 through March 13, 2016. Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, “The Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.” Coordinated by the Knox County Public Library and many community partners, “The Big Read supports organizations across the country in developing community-wide reading programs which encourage reading and participation by diverse audiences.” A Reader’s and Teacher’s Guide to the novel is available at the NEA website:

The Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.

Mary Pom Claiborne, Marketing and Community Relations Director for Knox County Public Library, is “proud of this program” and the tremendous involvement it promotes among local organizations and the reading community. Several book discussion groups are available to promote understanding and conversation about the themes in the novel (see list of dates and places below). Furthermore, a Community Leaders Forum, hosted by the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office, will “explore themes of social justice, racial inequality, human dignity, and personal redemption.” For a full schedule of events, check out the Knox County Public Library website,

The Clarence Brown Theater is also presenting the play A Lesson Before Dying, adapted from the novel by Romulus Linney (February 24 through March 13). Linney gives more of a voice to the condemned Jefferson and the dialogue between Grand and Jefferson pulls the audience breathlessly to the ultimate climax.

The Big Read provides a unique opportunity for Knoxville Parent readers to participate in a discussion about profound social and racial issues presented in both the novel and the play.

Upcoming Book Discussions:

Tuesday, February 16, 4 p.m.

KAT Station

301 Church Ave.

Facilitated by Michael Grider

Monday, February 22, 10 a.m.

Bearden Branch Library

100 Golf Club Rd.

Facilitated by Ross Jackson

Wednesday, February 24, 12 p.m.


420 Clinch Ave.

Facilitated by Avice Reid

Thursday, February 25, 11 a.m.

Sequoyah Branch Library

1140 Southgate Dr.

Facilitated by Ginna Mashburn

Thursday, February 25, 5 p.m.

Beaumont Elementary

1211 Beaumont Ave.

Facilitated by Indya Kincannon

Thursday, March 3, 1 p.m.

Halls Branch Library

4518 E. Emory Rd.

Facilitated by Mary Pom Claiborne

Michael K. Smith, Ph.D., is owner of TESTPREP EXPERTS ( ) which prepares students for standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT. He is also a consultant to Discovery Education Assessment. He can reached at

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