Northfield Reads is a community read, community engagement program. It grew out of the Human Rights Commission as an effort to reach out into the greater Northfield community, to engage people in discussion of the issues of diversity. The goal is, through reading and conversation, to increase our awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the diversity that makes up our community and the enrichment this offers to us all.
Northfield Reads began in in 2014, in a partnership of Northfield Human Rights Commission, Carleton Humanities Center, Northfield Public Library, and League of Women Voters. Some years we have had additional partners, related to the theme of the programs that year.
During the school year of 2018-19, Northfield Reads considered the issue of race from a variety of perspectives. At the center of the discussions was the book A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota. This is a compilation of essays by a variety of people of color who live in Minnesota. Events were held throughout the school year. Among these were a panel of Northfield residents of the global majority/people of color who shared their experiences living in Northfield; conversations about race with groups including high school English language learners and adult education students; a presentation on race and music; and a conversation about how to make Northfield more welcoming for a diversity of people.
In 2018, we read The Revolution Where You Live, by Sarah van Gelder. The focus of the book and our conversations was building bridges within our community and making a difference in the lives of each other. We learned about many individuals and groups that are making important differences in quiet ways. And we discussed ways to reach out to those we do not know and with whom we might not have much in common–community building.
In 2017, we read Unholy Ghosts, a collection of essays by people living with depression. During that year we considered the challenges of mental illness and ways, as individuals and a community, to understand and support those with mental health challenges.
For the 2016 year, we read the book $2.00 a Day: Living in America on Almost Nothing, by Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer. This was an engaging examination of the lives of those living in extreme poverty, the challenges and strengths of those individuals and families, and the social and political systems that create this. We examined the issue through discussion, presentations, a film, and a $2.00 dinner.
Prior to that, in 2015, we considered the story of those coming to the United States as immigrants, by focusing on the story of one Central American immigrant with the book Enrique’s Journey, by Sonia Nazario. The story was made more concrete by viewing the film La Bestia which documents the journey many immigrants make through Mexico, hitchhiking atop a train. Immigrants from previous generations and places also shared stories of their experiences. In addition, ESL classes at the high school invited people in for conversations, in which the students shared their stories as recent immigrants or children of immigrants.
The first year, 2014, we read and discussed articles related to two themes–Veterans’ Voices and Free Speech as guaranteed by the Constitution.