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CCAC making 'Big' effort to promote literacy

| Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 12:25 a.m.
Barbara Evans, associate dean of academic affairs at CCAC South, poses with the book 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter' by Carson McCullers on Feb. 18, 2013. Evans is project director for the Big Read, a monthlong series of free outreach events designed to promote literacy, reading and community engagement. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Community College of Allegheny County is hoping to bring readers across the region together with one book.

The Big Read, a monthlong series of free events to promote literacy, reading and community engagement, will kick off at 6 p.m. Thursday in the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Downtown.

The initiative focuses on Carson McCullers' novel “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” and will include dozens of events across Western Pennsylvania. The project is the result of a partnership between CCAC and 17 organizations — school districts, libraries, correctional facilities and theaters — called One College ... One Community.

“It really allows us to connect to the community,” said Barbara Evans, associate dean of academic affairs at CCAC South and Big Read project director.

This is the event's second year in Pittsburgh. Last year's Big Read focused on Zora Neale Hurston's novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

A $15,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant enables CCAC to provide more than 700 books, DVDs and audio books to partners throughout the region.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl proclaimed Thursday as “Big Read Day” in the city. Book discussions, film viewings and writing workshops about McCullers' novel and its themes will continue through April.

“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” published in 1940, centers on the experiences of a deaf man in the racially charged atmosphere of the Depression-era South.

“It's realistic in terms of how people deal with isolation,” Evans said.

Courtney George, director of the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians at Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga., McCullers' birthplace, will speak at the kickoff event.

“McCullers' work usually addresses many social issues, like class oppression, race oppression and gender oppression,” George said. “In some way, everybody can relate.”

McCullers died in 1967 at age 50. In addition to novels, she wrote essays, plays and short stories. “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” was her first novel.

Rachel Weaver is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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