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The Evanston Public Library promotes multicultural connections through a book club

Daily file photo of Madison Smith

Evanston Public Library. EPL’s Mission Impossible Book Group takes readers on a year-long journey through the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

To foster intercultural connection and the appreciation of classical literature, the Evanston Public Library founded the Mission Impossible Book Group.

Members of the program deal with the extensive work of a single author for a year. Literary Programming Librarian Heather Ross said this will give readers an opportunity to recognize the social influence of well-known writers and delve deeper into the broader implications of predominant literary subjects.

This year the members of Mission Impossible are reading three books by the Colombian writer, screenwriter and journalist Gabriel García Márquez: “Nobody Writes to the Colonel”, “A Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera”.

Ross said she selected Marquez as one of three options members can vote on to promote international writers rather than white European men.

Club members can read the books in English or Spanish. For the first time since its inception in 2010, the group offers dual activities in English and Spanish, broken down into monthly or bimonthly meetings, with discussions led by EPL librarians and volunteer leaders.

EPL Latino Outreach Librarian Mariana Bojorquez said that reading Marquez’s work in its original language adds a layer of compelling prose to the text.

“There are some words that just cannot be translated,” said the bilingual Bojorquez. “There is a way he writes that cannot be reproduced in English.”

Dr. Anna Nardo moved to Evanston from Baton Rouge, La, in 2016. after 40 years of teaching English at Louisiana State University. Freshly retired, Nardo joined Mission Impossible to experience the books from a human perspective, not that of a scholar.

Nardo said the EPL program is an opportunity to broaden the spirit and foster tolerance among the club’s older population.

“It’s public humanities in action,” said Nardo.

For Paola Rodriguez, reading Marquez’s work is a personal matter. The Colombian native and frequent librarian said she joined the group in December to discuss her culture with fellow avid readers.

Rodriguez said she was excited to come across texts that were widely used for homework during her teenage years. When cultural intricacies or historical context written in the novel flew over the heads of other members, Rodriguez said she stepped in to explain.

“I can tell you about my country that I love,” said Rodriguez. “I definitely speak a lot in the group.”

Fiction evokes both empathy and compassion in response to cultural identities revealed on the site, Ross said. The aim of the group is to read a book cover that covers many who would otherwise find their way through on their own and to create a mutual understanding between different areas of life.

As EPL is ramping up programs for Spanish-speaking residents, Bojorquez says the goal is to create a space where everyone feels welcome regardless of English. Going forward, she hopes to further represent Evanston’s diverse population by including more than two languages.

“We’re trying to offer a bilingual option so everyone can enjoy the activities,” said Bojorquez. “Whatever we have, we want people to experience it.”

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Twitter: @NixieStrazza

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