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Montclair Reads “The Best We Could Do”

What’s Your Story?

February through May 2024
Join us in this community-wide exploration of stories, heritage, and belonging.

This spring, more than 40 events—book discussions, classes, storytelling, movies, and more—inspired by this graphic novel will be happening throughout town.

Unless otherwise noted, registration is required and free for all events. All are welcome, including those from outside Montclair. We hope to see you soon!

ABOUT THE BOOK

An American Book Award winner, a National Book Critics Circle finalist in autobiography, and an Eisner Award finalist in reality-based comics, Thi Bui’s 2017 memoir traces her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s and their effort to build new lives for themselves in America. Bui documents parental sacrifice, excavates family histories, and grapples with the inherited struggles of displacement and diaspora. Learn more…

Events

Details are subject to change. Click on the blue links (where available) to register and for the most up-to-date information.

Lessons from the Vietnam War (adults)
Fridays, Jan. 26-March 1, 11:30 a.m., Main Library
This course on the Vietnam War will explore the conflict of cultures and viewpoints, as well as the conflict of arms. An Adult School class. Made possible through a partnership with the MILL and Partners for Health.

Launch of Montclair Reads
Thursday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m., Main Library
Kickoff event with ambassadors from participating programs and author video. Pick up a free copy of the celebrated graphic novel, “The Best We Could Do” by Thi Bui and a special tote bag.

Storytelling Improv for Social Change (adults)
Saturdays, Feb. 10-24, 1 p.m., Bellevue Avenue Branch
Through improvisational theater games, acting, movement, and vocal exercises, participants will learn Playback Storytelling Improv. An Adult School class.

East Side Mags Graphic Novel/Library Day (all ages)
Saturday, Feb. 17, East Side Mags
Get a 15% discount on purchases if you show your Montclair Public Library card. Discount not applicable on items already marked down, already on sale or supplies. No registration.

A Discussion of Storytelling and Graphic Novels
Tuesday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m., Watchung Booksellers
Professors Adam Rzepka and Jeffrey Gonzalez of Montclair State University will discuss the importance of graphic novels as a literary art form.

Family Storytelling Workshop
Saturday, Feb. 24, 12-2 p.m., Montclair Art Museum
Co-sponsored with Montclair Art Museum, with MAM instructor Peg Kenselaar.

“Out of Space: Creating Safe Spaces in Unlikely Places” with Julio Ceaser Roman III
Monday, Feb. 26, 6:30-9 p.m., Genevieve’s Exclusive Vintage Collection
Author visit with Julio Ceaser Roman III, co-sponsored with Out Montclair.

Graphic Memoir Class: Tell Your Story (grades 3-5)
Wednesdays, February 28-March 27, 4 p.m., Succeed2gether
In this class, students will explore their family’s unique heritage and traditions. They will write an illustrated story about their family’s place of origin, from ancestral legends to cherished recipes. There is a registration fee.

Comics Workshop (ages 8+)
Wednesday, Feb. 28, 4:30 p.m., Main Library
Cartoonist, illustrator, and teacher R. Sikoryak will teach participants how to make comics using a four-panel sequence.

Storytelling at Work: Indispensable Strategies to Get Your Point Across in Business (adults)
Wednesday, Feb. 28, 6:30 p.m., Bellevue Avenue Branch
Learn how to advance in your career using storytelling techniques to describe history and projects. An Adult School class.

Passport Art – MILL @ MPL
Fridays, March 1, 8 and 15, 11:30 a.m., Main Library
Passport Art is a collage/memoir class inspired by the Montclair Public Library’s Big Read book “The Best We Could Do”. 

Film Screenings: The Immigrant Experience
Mondays, March 11-25 and April 15-22, 2 p.m., Main Library
Join us for films that depict the immigrant experience in America. No registration.
March 11 – “In America” (2002)
March 18 – “The Namesake” (2006)
March 25 – “Brooklyn” (2015)
April 15 – “A Better Life” (2011)
April 22 – “Avalon” (1990)

Storytelling through Podcasts (adults)
Thursday, March 14, 10:30 a.m., Main Library
Vietnamese Boat People will share the prompts they’ve developed to facilitate family storytelling for podcasts. An Adult School class.

Teen Book Club (ages 12-18)
Thursday, March 14, 4 p.m., Main Library
Join us for our monthly Teen Book Club. In March, we’re reading and discussing graphic novels.

Book Clubs Discuss “The Best We Could Do” (adults)

The Everything Book Club
Tuesday, March 19, 1 p.m., Main Library OR
Wednesday, March 20, 7 p.m., Zoom

The Corner Book Club
Thursday, March 28, 11 a.m., Bellevue Ave. Branch

Vietnamese Boat People Book Club (led by Michelle Anh Germinario for AAPI-identified community members)
Thursday, March 28, 7 p.m., Google Meet

Comics Workshop (ages 8+)
Tuesday, March 19, 4 p.m., Main Library
Join veteran comic artist and teacher Jamal Igle to learn how to make a one-page story about yourself to share with family and friends.

Tiny Art Show Painting
Teens (ages 12-18): Wednesday, March 20, 5 p.m., Main Library
Adults (seniors): Friday, March 22, 11:30 a.m., Main Library
Paint your own tiny 4in x 4in canvas. Your canvas will be displayed in the Library as part of our Tiny Art Show. Unable to attend? Pick up a tiny canvas at either branch from March 18-25 and bring it back before April 8 to participate in our Tiny Art Show. All supplies provided, first-come first-served, for ages 7 to adult.

The AIDS Quilt as Memoir (ages 12-18)
Tuesday, March 26, 6 p.m., Main Library
Registration link coming soon.
View panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt and discuss how communities honor identity with visual storytelling.

Bringing Your Story to Life: Storytelling Workshop with Montclair Film’s Duncan Miller (adults)
Saturday, March 30, 1:30 p.m., Main Library

Teen Advisory Board Tiny Art Program (TAB members)
Wednesday, April 3, Main Library
TAB members are invited to paint tiny canvases as part of the Library’s Tiny Art Show.

Many Voices of Montclair Oral History Project
Thursday, April 18, 11 a.m., Main Library
Executive Director Angelica Diggs of the Montclair History Center will lead an introductory workshop on how to conduct oral histories.

Poetry as Memoir: A Writing Workshop for Teens (ages 12-18)
Wednesday, April 24, 6 p.m., Main Library
Hear examples of memoir poems and then write your own.

“Nailed It” Film Screening
Monday, April 29, 2 p.m., Main Library
After it premiered on PBS in 2019, “Nailed It” became the highest streamed film of the “America Reframed” series. Uncover the real history of the Vietnamese nail salon. Watch the trailer.

MILL Book Discussion
Monday, April 29, 3 p.m., Edgemont Park House
The MILL book club will read the book and discuss.

“Bolinao 52” Film Screening
Tuesday, April 30, 6 p.m., Main Library
This award-winning documentary tells the story of one boat that escaped Vietnam with 110 refugees on board. After 37 days at sea, only 52 survived. Watch the trailer.

Tiny Art Show
May TBD, Main Library

Open Book / Open Mind: “How to Baby” by Liana Finck (adults)
Saturday, May 18, 4 p.m., Main Library
A New Yorker cartoonist will discuss her hilarious illustrated memoir of parenthood.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Did you read “The Best We Could Do”? Download a list of other graphic novels with similar themes.
For adults
For teens
For tweens

If you represent a local organization that is interested in being part of our community read, please email director@montclairlibrary.org for more information.

Brought to you by: Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence, Montclair High School, and Montclair Public Library

Partners: AAPI Montclair, Dumpling Diplomacy, East Side Mags, MILL, Montclair Art Museum, Montclair Film, Montclair Public Library Foundation, Out Montclair, Succeed2gether, The Vietnamese Boat People, Watchung Booksellers

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