Chris Cleave is a best selling author and wherever he goes, people have read his book. When he comes to Spokane on Friday, a lot of people will have read his book.
Cleave’s Little Bee was selected as this year’s book for the Spokane is Reading program, which encourages Spokanites to dive their eyes and minds into one specific book of prose each year. The book is chosen by a committee of representatives from the Spokane Public Library, Spokane County Library District and Auntie’s Bookstore. Since 2001, the series has encouraged adult reading in general by bringing the author to town to give readings, question-and-answer sessions and book signings.
For an writer like Cleave, a New York Times bestselling author, events like Spokane is Reading are nothing short of a dream come true.
“I love doing ‘city reads’ programs,” says Cleave, whose Little Bee is inspired by West Africa, his childhood there and an unintentional visit to a British concentration camp.
“I think [they are] wonderful because they are events that start conversations between neighbors who haven’t met each other yet. And that’s what I think a good book should be about. It should be something that helps you make friends,” he says.
Eva Silverstone, a member of the selection committee and communications manager of the Spokane Public Library, says that choosing the book is one of the hardest tasks facing the committee behind Spokane is Reading.
“We get recommendations from participants from previous events,” says Silverstone. “The committee reads a lot of books, and we talk about books, then we also look at the practicality. We really want the author to come to Spokane. We try to pick a book that a lot of different people will like.
“In Little Bee,” she says, “you’ve got strong characters, it’s well written, the story is interesting and then you have an interesting setting.”
Previous book selections include: Plainsong by Kent Haruf, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier and Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, a book of nonfiction by Mary Roach.
“Spokane has a higher-than-national-average number of people who have library cards,” says Silverstone, “and we have several colleges in our community, and Get Lit!. I think that there are quite a few readers in Spokane, and I think it’s a strong reading community, and a community that supports literature.”
With Cleave, Spokane is Reading gets not only a novelist, but also a columnist for The Guardian newspaper in London. His first book Incendiary won the 2006 Somerset Maugham Award, the United States Book-of-the-Month Club’s First Fiction Award in 2005 and the Prix Spécial du Jury at the French Prix des Lecteurs 2007.
Cleave is known for a dedication to research prior to writing his fiction, and he believes this is one of his responsibilities as a writer. His characters are invented, he says, but based in a real world.
“I think it’s my job to research my stories really thoroughly,” says Cleave. “My job is to go out and find out about the hidden world that’s fascinating and exciting and then to report back on it.”
Cleave has high hopes for his reading, aware that part of the success depends upon those in attendance.
“I want people to go away from the event thinking that it was fascinating and different from the kinds of events they normally go to. I want people to enjoy it and have fun,” says Cleave. “The audience makes the show just as much as the performer does.”
Spokane is Reading • Fri, Oct. 12 • 1 pm at Garland Theater • 924 W. Garland Ave. • 7 pm at The Lincoln Center • 1316 N. Lincoln St. • Free, seating is first come, first served