WCLS to host virtual events for Washington Black book


Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) is hosting online events in March in anticipation of Canadian author Esi Edugyan’s discussion of her book, Washington Black.

HarperCollins published the  author’s Washington Black in 2018, narrating an 11-year-old boy’s escape from slavery by hot air balloon in the Barbados and a run in with an octopus. Edugyan won the Giller Prize, a Canadian literary award, for the book, which also was one of The New York Times’ 10 best books of the year.

“Inspired by the book, events and discussions will examine the themes of race and belonging and illustration and the natural world,” said Ann McAllen, adult programming coordinator for WCLS and chair of the Whatcom READS committee, in a statement on the event. “We hope to get neighbors talking to each other about the book’s themes and sharing their love of reading.”

The WCLS release said the nine-part virtual event series will honor the voices of Black writers, examine the impact of systemic racism and explore relationships with the natural world. The first event will kick off on Thursday, January 14.

Here is the list of events:

Thursday, January 14, 7-8 p.m.: Local poet Robert Lashley will read poetry on his experience living in the South and surviving the Hilltop gang wars in the ‘90s.

Saturday, January 23, 7-8 p.m.: Seattle author Kathya Alexander chronicles growing up in the segregated South during the Civil Rights Movement.

Monday, January 25, 6-7 p.m.: Former Western Washington University professor Clyde Ford will host an interactive discussion on race in America aimed to include people of all races.

Friday, February 5, 7-8 p.m.: Bill Lyne, a Western Washington University professor of African American Studies, will lead a discussion on African American literature.

Thursday, February 11, 7-8 p.m.: Clyde Ford will host a second presentation on race in the era of technology, speaking to experiences of his father, who he says was the first Black software engineer in America.

Saturday, February 13, 1-2 p.m.: University of Washington professor David Gire explains the neuroscience on the behavior of octopuses. This discussion follows Washington Black’s main character’s experience with an octopus.

Saturday, February 20, 4-5 p.m.: Bird expert David Allen Sibley will discuss his latest book “What it’s like to be a Bird: From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Sleeping – What Birds are Doing, and Why,” drawing on nature illustration.

Thursday, February 25, 6-7 p.m.: Poet Gloria Burgess will dive into African American history of spirituals and poetry by words and music.

March 4-5, times to be announced online: Washington Black author Esi Edugyan will discuss her book during this two-day virtual event.

Allied Arts of Whatcom County will exhibit Washington Black inspired art from Friday, March 5 to Saturday, March 27 in the nonprofit’s downtown gallery at 1418 Cornwall Avenue. Submissions are due between Tuesday, March 2 and Wednesday, March 3. For more information, visit alliedarts.org/whatcom-reads-art-challenge.

To register for the WCLS event Zoom links and for additional information, visit whatcomreads.org/events.


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