Check out the blog created by one of the students in Amy Fuqua's English Honors course.

 Blacks Hills State University students Brady Jones, history education major from Spearfish, and Kelsey Benson of Spearfish, discuss the "Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri during an English honors class. The class, taught by BHSU professor of English Dr. Amy Fuqua, is reading the book as part of The Big Read, a nationwide literature program.

Black Hills State University and the Spearfish community will bring the culture of India to the Black Hills through exhibits, foreign films, lectures, demonstrations, book discussions, and much more as it kicks off a nearly year-long nationwide literature program.

Spearfish is one of 77 communities throughout the nation selected to participate in The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment of the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment. The community-wide celebration kicked off last month with the introduction of the book “Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri, an emerging author who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her debut short story collection “Interpreter of Maladies.”

Throughout the next several months, events are planned that focus on the author, the novel, and its various themes including immigration, coming of age and the acquisition of cultural norms.  The event will also expose Spearfish to a new culture including Indian food, music, art, and film, according to Sian Young, executive director of the Matthews Opera House. The Opera House is organizing the program and has partnered with various other community organizations including the Grace Balloch Public Library and BHSU.

Dr. Amy Fuqua, BHSU professor of English, has assigned “The Namesake” in both her Freshman Composition and Honors English classes with students creating a blog and leading community discussions surrounding the book and its themes. Fuqua says she always tries to choose books for class that focus on young people finding themselves.

“’The Namesake’ fits perfectly into that theme,” she said.

Many of Fuqua’s students could relate to the struggles of “The Namesake’s” main character, Gogol.

“Although I couldn't relate to being a different race in an American society, I could relate to being a teenager facing many insecurities on a daily basis,” said Kayla McCaskell, biology education major from Piedmont. “Gogol's insecurities were a lot different than my own, but I could still relate and feel his pain, which led me to one simple conclusion: until you can overcome your insecurities, you will not develop a sense of your own identity and discover who you truly are.”

Darlene Coppe, exercise science major from Williston, N.D., said she also found common themes within her own life.

“I thought ‘The Namesake’ was an amazingly relatable work of fiction,” she said. “I was able to imagine myself in the characters’ shoes and see things from their points of view easily.”

Both students said they are excited to be a part of the community-wide program.

“I've always loved the classics and the way they seem to transcend time, making you feel a part of something bigger because so many before you have read it,” Coppe said. “This is how ‘The Namesake’ feels to me, as a part of the Big Read, millions have read it, so it's become much bigger, which makes me feel incredibly privileged to be a part of it.”

McCaskell said she is looking forward to the community discussions to hear other perspectives on the book. “Once you develop your own relationship with the book, hearing different relationships makes you appreciate it a lot more,” she said. “It will also be a great opportunity to get to know this community better and build relationships and connections.”

That is Fuqua’s goal as well.

BHSU’s participation in the Big Read will help foster a stronger relationship between the University and the community and will showcase to the community what BHSU has to offer, she said.

BHSU will continue to participate in the program through the spring semester with several other professors getting involved including Nicholle Dragone, assistant professor of English; Kent Meyers, professor of English; and Dr. Bobbi Looney, assistant professor of management.

For a full schedule of local Big Read events go to matthewsopera.com/the-big-read.html