The Arlington Public Library’s annual “Arlington Reads” series is back in person this year, with seven events scheduled throughout the year.
The series will feature conversations between Library System Director Diane Kresh and notable authors about their favorite classic novels, sharing insights into why their universal themes remain relevant today.
The first event will take place on March 2 and will feature local poet Reginald Dwayne Betts. He is also the founder of the non-profit association Freedom Reads, partner of the series.
“2022 [Arlington Reads] ‘Rebooting the Classics’ focuses on the classic novel: how it is defined, who its audience is, how it influences the works of other authors and, most importantly, how it affects the reader,” Kresh writes to ARLnow about of this year’s theme.
Since its inception in 2006, Arlington Reads has featured conversations with more than 50 nationally acclaimed authors. The last two, in 2020 and 2021, have been strictly virtual. The virtual events included conversations with Colson Whitehead and Alexis Coe.
This year’s iteration will essentially be a hybrid, with limited in-person seating available in the Central Library auditorium and the events also streaming online.
Seven conferences are scheduled from March to October, including with fiction author Deesha Philyaw, New Yorker writer and book reviewer Parul Sehgal and well-known “Lincoln in the Bardo” writer George Saunders.
Kresh and the writers will discuss hard-hitting classic novels including “The Great Gatsby,” “The Scarlet Letter,” and “Huckleberry Finn.” The series is funded with the help of the Friends of Arlington Public Library.
The author of the first event, Betts, is from Maryland and wrote “Felon,” a book of poetry about the impact of incarceration on life. In 1996, he was arrested for committing a carjacking outside the Springfield Mall in Fairfax County. After serving his sentence, he has since become an acclaimed author, poet and lawyer.
He founded the non-profit organization Freedom Reads, which provides books to incarcerated people. The organization partners with the Arlington Public Library for this year’s version of “Arlington Reads.”
“Freedom Reads gives people serving their time books and through that access the chance to ‘dig deeper and see their lives in new ways,'” Kresh writes.
Offender Aid and Restoration, an Arlington-based nonprofit that helps individuals reintegrate into the community after incarceration, is also a partner in the series of events.
Last month, Covid-related staffing shortages led to the closure of several library branches – but all regular operations and services resumed on January 31.