RENO — Nevada Humanities has announced the book selections for the 2019 Nevada Reads program. Nevada Reads is a statewide book club that invites Nevadans to read selected works of literature and then come together in their communities to share the ideas and perceptions inspired by the books they have read. Nevada Reads offers avenues for discussion of topics of importance to Nevadans.
Throughout 2019, Nevada Reads will feature three books, two nonfiction memoirs and one novel—Heavy: An American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon, Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover, and Don’t Skip Out On Me a novel by Nevada author Willy Vlautin. All three books use powerful storytelling to explore the issues of honesty, identity, and family legacy. Programming around the selected books will take place throughout the state in 2019, including book clubs, discussion groups, visits by the authors, and community partnership-led initiatives. Program details with be announced throughout the year.
“We are excited to delve into the stories told in Heavy, Don’t Skip Out On Me, and Educated—three books that each in their own way describes the human struggle to find one’s place in a vast and sometimes lonely world,” said Christina Barr, executive director of Nevada Humanities. “At Nevada Humanities, we believe that stories help illuminate our shared experience, and we are so pleased to be launching this year’s Nevada Reads program with this goal in mind.”
Nevada Reads is a program of Nevada Humanities and is made possible with support from Nevada State Library, Archives, and Public Records; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Those interested in reading the 2019 Nevada Reads books and participating in the scheduled programming are encouraged to request the books at their public library or purchase them now. Book descriptions and information about their respective authors follows:
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon. Scribner
In Heavy, Kiese Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed, black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.
A personal narrative that illuminates national failures, Heavy is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family that begins with a confusing childhood—and continues through 25 years of haunting implosions and long reverberations. Heavy, shortlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal and the Kirkus Prize, was named one of the Best Books of 2018 by the New York Times and other publications. It was also named Audible’s Audiobook of the Year.
Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Laymon is the Ottilie Schillig Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi, and is the author of the novel Long Division and a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. He is also the author of the memoir Heavy: An American Memoir.
Don’t Skip Out On Me by Willy Vlautin. Harper Perennial
A moving story about a young man’s search for belonging, Don’t Skip Out On Me is an understated yet powerful exploration of identity and loneliness pulled from deep within America’s soul.
Horace Hopper has spent most of his life on a Nevada sheep ranch, but dreams of something bigger. Mr. and Mrs. Reese, the aging ranchers, took him in after his parents abandoned him, treating him like the son they always wanted. But Horace, ashamed of not only his half-Paiute, half-Irish heritage but also the fact that his parents didn’t want him, feels as if he doesn’t truly belong on the ranch, or anywhere. Believing that he needs to make a name for himself, Horace leaves behind the only loving home he has ever known for Tucson, where he aims to prove his worth as a championship boxer. Horace struggles to adapt to his new life in the city, and grows more and more isolated, withdrawing into himself as he struggles with the pain of his boxing injuries and his loneliness.
Born and raised in Reno, Nevada, Vlautin started playing guitar and writing songs as a teenager and quickly became immersed in music. It was a Paul Kelly song, based on Raymond Carver’s Too Much Water So Close to Home that inspired him to start writing stories. Vlautin has published five novels: The Motel Life (2007), Northline (2008), Lean On Pete (2010), The Free (2014), and Don’t Skip Out On Me (2018).
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Random House
Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when Westover’s older brother became violent. Then, lacking any formal education, Westover began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
Westover is an American author. Born in Idaho to a father opposed to public education, she never attended school, and was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. After that first encounter with education, she pursued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from Brigham Young University in 2008 and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. She earned an M.Phil. from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 2009, and in 2010 was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. She returned to Cambridge, where she was awarded a Ph.D. in history in 2014.
For more information about Nevada Humanities, Nevada Reads, or the Nevada Center for the Book, visit nevadahumanities.org or call 800-382-5023 in Reno or 702-800-4670 in Las Vegas.