Press Club

‘Arlington Reads’ library event series returns in person next month

Poet Reginald Dwayne Betts, the first author in 2022’s “Arlington Reads” event series (courtesy of Arlington Public Library)

Arlington Public Library’s annual series “Arlington Reads” 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 on why their universal themes remain relevant today.

The first event is March 2 and will highlight local poet Reginald Dwayne Betts. He’s also the founder of the nonprofit Freedom Reads, which is a partner on the series.

“2022’s [Arlington Reads] ‘Rebooting the Classics’ focuses on the classic novel: how it is defined, who is its audience, how it influences the works of other authors, and, most importantly, how it affects the reader,” writes Kresh to ARLnow about this year’s theme.

Since its inception in 2006, Arlington Reads has featured conversations with more than 50 nationally known authors. The last two, in 2020 and 2021, have strictly been 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 seats available in Central Library’s auditorium and the events also streamed online.

Seven talks are scheduled from March to October, including with fiction author Deesha Philyaw, New Yorker staff writer and book critic Parul Sehgal, and well-known writer of “Lincoln in the Bardo” George Saunders.

Kresh and the writers will discuss impactful classic novels, including “The Great Gatsby,” “The Scarlet Letter,” and “Huckleberry Finn.” The series is financed with help from the Friends of the Arlington Public Library.

The first event’s author, Betts, is from Maryland and wrote “Felon,” a book of poetry about the impact of incarceration on one’s life. In 1996, he was arrested for committing a carjacking outside of Springfield Mall in Fairfax County. After serving time, he’s since become an acclaimed author, poet and advocate.

He founded the nonprofit Freedom Reads, which provides books to those who are incarcerated. The organization is partnering with Arlington Public Library on this year’s version of “Arlington Reads.”

“Freedom Reads gives books to people serving time and through this access, the chance to ‘deepen and envision their lives in new ways,'” writes Kresh.

Arlington-based nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration, which helps individuals return to the community after being incarcerated, is also a partner for the series of events.

Last month, Covid-related staffing shortages resulted in several library branches shuttering — but all regular operations and services resumed on Jan. 31.

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