It developed through collaboration between local libraries, educational institutions, museums, and bookstores.
The goal is to create a culture of reading in communities. The initiative asks participants to read the same title during October. Organizers encourage readers to come together in book discussions. They encourage everyone to take part. GCR also encourages classrooms and libraries throughout the region to discuss the book.
This year, librarians across the Gulf Coast area selected The Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell.
The internments camps during World War II are a well-documented part of American history. Crystal City in southern Texas is one of the lesser-known camps. It housed thousands of Japanese immigrants. Also detained were many people of German and Italian descent.
Individuals and families of Japanese descent had also been taken away from Latin America. Many spoke neither Japanese nor English and had no connection to the United States.
From 1942 to 1948, trains delivered thousands of civilians to the small desert town. The trains carried internees and their American-born children. Crystal City was the only family internment camp during World War II. It was the center of the infamous “Quiet Passage” prisoner exchange program. Civilians held at Crystal City and other camps served as human barter. The program sent “enemy aliens” abroad. Detainees were repatriated to countries. Some had never known these countries. The exchanges facilitated the return of Americans trapped overseas. They included government officials, businessmen, journalists and missionaries. The U.S. government exchanged thousands of internees in Crystal City, including their American-born children.
Their stories of day-to-day life at the camp have never been told. Author Jarboe Russell focused her book on two American-born teenage girls interned. She uncovers the details of their years spent in the camp. Readers will learn about the 10-foot high security fence, armed guards, daily roll call and censored mail. She delves into their families’ struggles in war-devastated Germany and Japan. The author relates their years-long attempt to survive and return to the United States. Their stories of perseverance and how individuals transformed from incarcerated enemies to American loyalists.
World War II and American policy after the attack of Pearl Harbor changed the lives of many U.S. citizens. The Train to Crystal City reveals the war-time hysteria against the Japanese and Germans in America. Jarboe Russell elaborates the secret tactics to rescue high-profile prisoners of war in Germany and Japan. And how the definition of American citizenship changed under the pressure of war.
Aside from book discussion groups, participating libraries and other institutions have planned special programs. The book and its themes inspired events. For example, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston is conducting a tour experience. The MFAH tour creates bridges between the literary and visual arts. The MFAH has connected the major themes and ideas found in The Train to Crystal City to artworks in the Museum’s collection.
The author has scheduled appearances across the region. Linda Stevens with the Harris County Public Library shared more upcoming events. Stevens is one of the co-facilitators of Gulf Coast Reads.
Mon., Oct. 24 @ 4 p.m. @ Harris County Public Library-Galena Park Branch
Mon., Oct. 24 @ 6 p.m. @ Baldwin Boettcher Branch Library
Tues., Oct. 25 @ 10 a.m. @ San Jacinto College-Central
Tues., Oct. 25 @ 6 p.m. @ Gulf Coast Reads at Wharton County Library
Wed., Oct. 26 @ 12:30 p.m. @ Houston Community College – Stafford Campus Library
Wed., Oct. 26 @4 p.m. @ Aldine ISD MacArthur High School (library)
Wed., Oct. 26 @ 6:30 p.m. @ Holocaust Museum
Thur., Oct. 27 @ 2 p.m. @ Harris County – Barbara Bush Branch
Thur., Oct. 27 @ 3 p.m. @ Parker Williams Branch Library at ESL Room 3
Thur., Oct.27 @ 6:30 p.m. @ Harris County – Barbara Bush Branch
Thur., Oct. 27 @ 6:30 p.m. @ Gulf Coast Reads at Texas Southern University Library
Thur., Oct. 27 @ 6:30 p.m. @ Gulf Coast Reads at Museum of Fine Arts Houston
Fri., Oct. 28 @ 10:15 a.m. @ Harris County – Freeman Branch
Fri., Oct. 28 @ 2:30 p.m. @ Harris County – Barbara Bush Branch
For more information about other programs, visit the Gulf Coast Reads website. Click on the “Events” tab at top on the menu bar. Individuals can also follow GCR on Facebook and Twitter.
Information literacy specialist (ILs) Dorothy Allen attended the GCR meetings in September. Allen works at MacArthur Ninth Grade School. She has read the book and researched the topic. Allen believes the book will appeal to high school students and adults.
“The architect of Crystal City hoped to create a ‘humane’ environment. There was a separate living space for each family and a mess hall that served three meals a day. They also had a prisoner built-in swimming pool. But this did little to change the fact they were prisoners. Many encountered unimaginable trouble while they were in Germany and Japan. The American-born children were seen as spies.
“Books like ‘The Train to Crystal City’ can help us remember the past. They can inspire us to take an interest to dig a little deeper into history. This can better help us understand people and literature.”
Allen gave a great example. As individuals read the book they can share their thoughts during group discussion meetings. Allen hopes the historical value of the book will stimulate readers’ interest. She would like to see them dig a little deeper into history. This could include reading books about the storm. Individuals could also look at historical images and newspaper articles. They can also discuss character development and the story’s plot.
Aldine ISD will host an event around the book. Dr. Abbie L. Grubb will visit MacArthur High School (library) on Wed., Oct. 26 at 4 p.m. Grubb is an instructor of history. She is also the director of the Honors Program at San Jacinto College-South Campus. She will talk about the Crystal City internment camp.
Cindy Buchanan encouraged staff and students to check with the ILS at their campuses. Some have planned events or discussion groups. Buchanan is program director of library media services.
“I hope district and campus leaders along with teachers take part,” said Buchanan. “If students see participants enjoying the book, then they will likely be curious. They will see the book as something worth reading. In Aldine, we are working to create a strong reading culture.“
“Teens who choose to pick up a book for pleasure are more likely to succeed in life,” added Buchanan. “That is what the research shows us. How do you discover the joy of reading? It starts by finding amazing books. I think ‘The Train to Crystal City’ is a great pick this year for the month-long reading initiative. Discussing a book is a great way to make reading engaging. It is a great way to motivate everyone to read and to get deeper into a book. And it is a great way to get young and old interested in reading.“
Director of Written Communication & Spanish Media
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