The National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with Arts Midwest, funded Big Read Edwardsville, a program providing free copies of the novel “Circe” by Madeline Miller. Events related to the novel and its themes of Greek mythology and witchcraft are being held throughout September and October for the program.
Lora Del Rio, who is the humanities librarian and research & teaching coordinator at Lovejoy Library, said that the mission of the project lines up perfectly with the mission of Edwardsville Public Library, which is opening minds, connecting people, engaging communities and creating experiences.
Jacob Del Rio, the head librarian of adult services at the Edwardsville Public Library, wrote the grant proposal that allowed the program to occur. He said the goal of Big Read Edwardsville is to reach out to existing patrons, SIUE’s students, faculty, staff and Edwardsville at large.
“If you look at the slate of programs, we’re adding programming that’s not exactly directly associated with the text, kind of tangentially related to where we can draw people in that have different interests and maybe we can kind of bring people with [other] interests and other disciplines back to literature,” Jacob said.
The event is centered around the novel “Circe,” which is set in the Greek Heroic age and told from the perspective of the titular witch Circe. Free copies of the novel were handed out at Lovejoy Library and Edwardsville Public Library.
Lora praised the novel for its underdog protagonist, and her relatability beyond the scope of gender and time period.
“She’s in this place where she’s like, ‘I don’t feel like I fit in, I don’t belong,’ and I think that people can connect with that. You don’t have to be a woman to connect with that too; every human has had a point in their lives where they didn’t fit in,” Lora said.
Between Lovejoy Library and Edwardsville Library, 600 books have been purchased to give out, with many already being picked up by patrons of Lovejoy Library and Edwardsville Public Library.
“I was totally delighted to see faculty, students, staff — I’m just delighted to see the enthusiasm for it. We didn’t have a lot of buildup for it, so the response has just been awesome,” Lora said.
Many events related to the program will occur in the next month, including a virtual interview with Miller conducted by Professor of English Language and Literature Nancy Ruff, as well as two keynotes conducted at Wildey Theater, one by Ruff and one by Professor of English Language and Literature Jessica Despain.
Stacey Haas, the senior library specialist at Lovejoy Library, painted a series of paintings loosely inspired by the books available to view at Lovejoy Library. She enjoyed the book’s representation of powerful women, which was a main theme she represented in her art.
“I didn’t really paint things that only pertained to the book, I went back to that theme of girl power, so there’s a lot of different female figures with — [Circe] does witchcraft so it’s kind of along that line too,” Haas said.
As the program is intended to reach a wider audience, other media is included within the events that aligns with the theming of Greek mythology and Witchcraft. Media under the theme of Greek mythology includes the first two books in the “Percy Jackson & The Olympians” series, which is provided as a pre-teen/teen alternative to Circe for discussion, and viewings of Disney’s “Hercules” that occurred earlier this month. At 8 p.m. on Oct. 15, there is a showing of the Japanese animated movie “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” included to match the theme of witchcraft from the novel.
Additional information and the full event schedule is available on the Edwardsville Public Library’s website.