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Gracie Mansion Conservancy and First Lady Chirlane McCray Launch Gracie Book Club

April 12, 2016

James Hannaham, Jacqueline Woodson and A.M Homes will partner with First Lady McCray to select books and moderate Gracie Book Club discussions

First Gracie Book Club selection will be Bright Lines, by Tanwi Nandini Islam

New Yorkers can sign up for Gracie Book Club at nyc.gov/graciebookclub

NEW YORK––The Gracie Mansion Conservancy today announced the launch of the Gracie Book Club, a collaborative effort between First Lady Chirlane McCray and renowned New York City authors to foster conversation on a curated selection of literary works. New Yorkers of all ages are encouraged to sign up for the Gracie Book Club at nyc.gov/graciebookclub.

For the 2016-17 inaugural season, First Lady McCray and three Gracie Book Club moderators – authors James Hannaham, Jacqueline Woodson and A.M. Homes – will select six books to read and discuss with fellow New Yorkers over the next year. The theme of this season of the Gracie Book Club is “Envisioning Distant Neighbors,” which aims to open dialogue on New York City’s diversity and rich immigrant community. All of this year’s books will touch on that theme.

“The many immigrant groups that have sought refuge here, and the beautiful languages and traditions they brought with them, help define New York City. We are proud to shine new light on the often untold stories of our city’s diverse communities with the new Gracie Book Club,” said First Lady and Mayor’s Fund Board Chair Chirlane McCray. “I hope New Yorkers will join me and our talented moderators in this first season of exploring how our multicultural population has helped us build a more dynamic city through our selected books and the discussions to follow.”

“Gracie Mansion is not just the home of the First Family – as the People’s House, it is also a place intended to bring together New Yorkers from all walks of life. That’s exactly what the Gracie Mansion Conservancy hopes to achieve through the Gracie Book Club: to gather individuals young and old for conversations on issues that are at the heart of these books and our city,” said Gabrielle Fialkoff, Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships. “We hope New Yorkers in every borough will sign up for the Gracie Book Club online and join our discussions over the course of this next year.”

"With New York City's rising diversity and its enduring place as a world crossroads of writing and publishing, Gracie Mansion is an ideal place to foster reading as a source of personal discovery and community-building through the Gracie Book Club,” said Paul Gunther, Executive Director of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy. “We’re grateful to Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and member of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy Board of Advisors, for her support in envisioning and championing this new initiative.”

The first Gracie Book Club selection will be Bright Lines, written by Tanwi Nandini IslamBright Lines tells the story of three young women and a Bangladeshi immigrant family as they struggle to reconcile the competing identities of Brooklyn, New York and Dhaka. The novel explores the characters’ search for a home built upon unconditional love as well as the meaning of family across cultures distinguished by time and place.

Bright Lines was picked by First Lady McCray and Hannaham, who will moderate the first Gracie Book Club discussion. That event will be held at Gracie Mansion on May 17th at 6 p.m. Ticket giveaway information will be made public in the coming weeks.

Along with Bright Lines, three other books will be chosen by First Lady McCray with Hannaham and Homes for an adult audience. The two remaining books will be selected by First Lady McCray and Woodson for two student audiences. Information on upcoming Gracie Book Club selections and discussion events, as well as discussion topics, will be made available at nyc.gov/graciebookclub and will be emailed to New Yorkers who sign up for the Gracie Book Club.

“Bright Lines is my love letter to a New York City composed of distant neighbors. I wanted to juxtapose the million histories and parallel lives that are always unfurling at the same moment. What happens when you focus the lens on an immigrant family home in Clinton Hill, an apothecary on Atlantic Avenue or a garden apartment beauty salon? I wanted to bring together characters not often seen in dialogue in literature,” said Tanwi Nandini Islam, author of Gracie Book Club selection Bright Lines. “It was important to me to write a story about Bangladeshis in New York City, as we are one of the fastest growing immigrant groups of the last decade. At the story's heart, three young people navigate summertime in their city, riding on their bikes, breaking not only physical boundaries of location, but also psychic ones, of what is expected of them, who they desire and ultimately, where they belong.”

“I am thrilled at the opportunity to introduce New York City to books that encourage understanding across all kinds of boundaries, and thereby demolish those boundaries,” said James Hannaham, author and first Gracie Book Club moderator.

“In an age where people gather in rooms less and less, it’s phenomenal to think of New Yorkers coming together around literature. The Gracie Book Club’s theme ‘Envisioning Distant Neighbors’ is a timely one.  I’m excited to be a part of this,” said Jacqueline Woodson, author, Young People’s Poet Laureate and Gracie Book Club moderator.

“I’m especially excited about the theme of Envisioning Distant Neighbors; this experience of shared reading and conversation will pull us closer and allow us to explore a variety of experiences and communities – it’s a new way to travel through the five boroughs,” said A.M. Homes, author and Gracie Book Club moderator.

"Reading, which invites us to live a while inside of someone else's view of the world, fosters empathy that doesn't disappear once the book is closed. I can think of few things more valuable that a city of people can do together," said Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and poet, and member of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy Board of Advisors. 

In support of the Gracie Book Club, the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library systems will all be making extra copies of Bright Lines available in every library branch. They will also be offering programming at some branches in coordination with the Gracie Book Club to ensure that New Yorkers can also participate in discussions on the book selection within their own communities.

"One of our key roles as a public library is to get New Yorkers excited about reading, and we're thrilled to have First Lady McCray as a creative partner in those efforts," said New York Public Library President Tony Marx. "Her new Gracie Mansion Book Club will highlight the joy of sharing stories and reading books, and we look forward to welcoming club events in our branches."

“Brooklyn Public Library is proud to join the Gracie Mansion Conservancy, First Lady Chirlane McCray and thousands of New Yorkers to share in one of life’s greatest pleasures: reading and discussing a good book,” said Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda Johnson. “As an institution whose mission is to nurture writers and share their work with as wide a readership as possible, we’re particularly pleased that a Brooklyn author and story have been selected to inaugurate the Gracie Book Club, and we encourage our patrons to join the club and read along.”

“I can’t think of a better way to share our common experiences as New Yorkers, than through the lens of a great book. Queens Library will have plenty of copies of “Bright Lines” to lend. We are looking forward to a great conversation,” said Dennis Walcott, president and CEO, Queens Library.

“Reading together helps us expand our minds and become closer to our neighbors. I'm very excited about the launch of the Gracie Mansion Book Club and applaud the First Lady's commitment to bringing New Yorkers together through literature. I know the power of books to foster dialogue, expand horizons, and bring us insight in approaching the tough issues facing our city,” said Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer

“As Chair of the Subcommittee on Libraries, our motto is ‘Reading Is Cool!’  The launch of the Gracie Book Club is very ‘cool,’ and I strongly recommend that New Yorkers of all ages join the book club and visit their local library to check out the Gracie Book Club selections. Why, because it helps New Yorkers connect to our diversity and because #ReadingIsCool," said Council Member Andy King.

“Storytelling is a powerful political tool that many immigrants in our City hold – regardless of legal status in this country. I applaud First Lady McCray in opening up the space for immigrant stories to be shared and absorbed by all those who participate,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration.

“It is a pleasure to see the historic Gracie Mansion Conservancy play a part in promoting and featuring diversity with the launch of First Lady Chirlane McCray’s Gracie Book Club on the theme of Envisioning Distant Neighbors,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Through shared reading and fostering diversity, I am convinced the Gracie Mansion Book Club will add to the dynamic multi-cultural landscape of New York City.” 

The Gracie Book Club is part of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy’s new programming to not only highlight its role in New York City history, but also make Gracie Mansion more accessible to more New Yorkers. As part of this effort, Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray introduced a new art installation last October, titled “Windows on the City: Looking Out at Gracie’s New York.” The installation consists of previously and newly acquired works, all from the original Gracie Mansion period, which have been curated to create a more historically accurate picture of life in New York City during the time of Gracie Mansion’s construction.

Free, guided tours of Gracie Mansion are available every Tuesday. Interested individuals can sign up for a tour at on.nyc.gov/gracietour.

pressoffice@cityhall.nyc.gov

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