Building a love of literature in the community

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Several area libraries are bringing the Great Michigan Read to Osceola, Mecosta and Montcalm counties.

Reed City Public Library, Big Rapids Community Library, Marion Public Library, Morton Township Library, Tamarack District Library and Artworks in Big Rapids are participating in the Great Michigan Read, a statewide reading discussion of a book written by a Michigan author.

This year’s read is “Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret,” written by Steve Luxenberg. The book accounts the uncovering of a deeply buried family secret – an aunt named Annie, who was committed to Eloise Mental Hospital in 1940 and erased from the family tree until her death.

“The book primarily has to do with mental illness and the treatment of mental illness in Michigan over the years,” said Jeanette Fleury, Artworks volunteer and coordinator of the Great Read.

Book discussions, panel discussions, movie screenings, two trips to the Traverse City State Hospital and other events will be held at Artworks and participating libraries free of charge as part of the Great Michigan Read, creating a dialogue in the community about mental health, an issue that often has a stigma attached.

“If you ask for mental health assistance you are sometimes perceived as weak or incompetent,” Fleury said. “If you have a mental illness, it is sometimes perceived differently than if you have cancer or a hernia. The reason we are studying this book is to show people there are all kind of different kinds of illnesses people get. Helping people deal with these issues is important. They shouldn’t be shunned because of it.”

Reed City Public Library Director Heather Symon said the Great Read gives libraries an opportunity to showcase what they offer their communities.

“There is a lot in terms of programming a library can provide,” Symon said. “There’s so much more beyond just print books. It’s fun to plan events with other libraries and humanities groups. The Great Michigan Read explores important topics, and doing that in collaboration with other communities reinforces a love of literature.”

Copies of “Annie’s Ghosts” are available at no cost at Artworks in Big Rapids, Reed City Public Library, Tamarack District Library in Lakeview, Marion Public Library and Morton Township Library.

Two field trips to the former Traverse City State Hospital will be held on April 11 and April 25. The cost for the April 11 trip is $22 per person, and includes a 90-minute hospital tour. The trip on April 25 is $2 per person and includes a 45-minute hop-on tour. Transportation for both trips is provided by the Ferris State University Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning.

“We have a few people signed up already for book discussion,” Symon said. “There’s been a lot of positive verbal feedback. We haven’t opened registration for the State Hospital tours, but a lot of people have tentatively indicated they are interested in the tours and other event. We are hearing a lot of good feedback even though a lot of events haven’t taken place yet.”

Those interested in attending either Traverse City State Hospital tour can register at Artworks of the Reed City Public Library between March 3 and April 23.

Following is a list of other book-related events which will take place in Osceola and Mecosta counties:

  • March 19 – Big Rapids Public Library will host a basic genealogical program beginner’s workshop at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
  • March 25 – Reed City Public Library will screen the film “Girl Interrupted” and host a discussion about bipolar disorder from 5 to 8 p.m.
  • April 1 – Tamarack District Library in Lakeview will screen “Silver Linings Playbook” at 5:30 p.m., followed by a discussion.
  • April 16 – Big Rapids Public Library will have genealogical resources available at 6 p.m. at City Hall. People will learn where to find family records and how to trace their family history.
  • April 22 – A panel discussion on the history of mental health care in Michigan will be held at 7 p.m. at Artworks, with refreshments provided.
  • April 24 – The Friends of the Big Rapids Community Library Spring Refresher will feature a discussion on Working in Michigan Mental Health Hospitals at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
  • May 6 – A discussion on how stigma affects people requesting mental health services will be held at 2 p.m. at Morton Township Library.