Fourteen years ago, Willard Library started its “Battle Creek Reads” program, which encourages community members to read the same book, talk about it, and then meet the author.  This year, library patrons will have to settle for an on-line meeting, but the books and authors for 2021 have been selected.

This year's selections will illustrate the theme “The Ties That Bind Us”.  The books are “The Distance Between Us” by Reyna Grande and “A Woman is No Man” by Etaf Rum.

Public Relations Librarian Kristine Pioch says they usually choose one book, but this year the committee chose two.  "Our committee of about six library staff, headed up by library director Cathy Lucas, started with eight books this year.  We read all of them, and then narrowed it down to two."

“With the start of the quarantine earlier this year and reading articles about how the quarantine has brought families closer together or broken them up, we naturally gravitated to books that focused on familial ties,” Reference Librarian Jade Woodridge said.  “Ties can provide comfort, pulling you back to the ones you love. Ties can become a strength, unbreakable in the face of danger. Sometimes these ties can keep you grounded when all you want to do is fly away,” she said.

Both books are now available for checkout from Willard Library downtown, 7 W. Van Buren St., and Helen Warner Branch, 36 Minges Creek Place. Also, the books are available in ebook and audiobook formats through the library’s apps.

While both buildings are currently closed to in-person visits, people may place holds on the books at, through the library’s app, or by calling 269-968-8166, ext. 513. Once notified the books are available, cardholders may pick them up through contactless curbside service.

Young adults may participate by reading the Young Readers Edition of “The Distance Between Us” for grades six through nine.

Due to the pandemic, the 2021 authors will give virtual talks rather than appearing in person in Battle Creek.

Reyna Grande. The Distance Between Us-Photo Provided by Willard Library
Reyna Grande. The Distance Between Us-Photo Provided by Willard Library

Grande’s memoir, “The Distance Between Us,” is the story of the author’s early years as a child crossing the Mexican border into the United States to reunite with her father. Following the ties of family, young Reyna must brave the dangers of the terrain and the law, leaving behind a home she has always known to make a new one with the person she has always yearned for.

“I like the relevancy of Reyna's story not only because of her ties to her family and culture, but because it brings us into family struggles different from our own that are widely publicized but rarely understood,” Woodridge said.

“I like that this title is available for adults as well as children and translated into Spanish so that everyone, regardless of age and language, can participate this year,” she added.

Grande will give a live streaming talk on Thursday, March 11, at 7 p.m.

Etaf Rum. A Woman is No Man-photo provided by Willard Library
Etaf Rum. A Woman is No Man-photo provided by Willard Library

In “A Woman Is No Man,” Rum’s novel tells about three generations of Palestinian American women tethered to their Arab culture and comforted during times of violence. As they struggle with their individuality, will this tie become a chain?

“Once again I was drawn to the cultural ties in this book. Three different women must learn to understand each other and what their culture means to them during trying times,” Woodridge said. “There is also the expectation of what a girl and a woman are supposed to become, and though I am not of the same culture as the women in the book, I can identify with the characters.”

Rum will give a live streaming talk on Tuesday, April 13, at 7 p.m.

“I hope these books will inspire readers to reflect on the ties they have in their lives and how it has gotten them through these current, challenging events,” Woodridge said. “I think residents will enjoy the opportunity to read about different families and possibly see themselves in these situations and dilemmas.”

In addition to the author's talks, the library plans virtual community book discussions for each book this spring.

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