The Big Read

Don’t miss this educational opportunity!

As part of The Big Read Project, an exhibit of Vietnam era artifacts will open at the Grand Forks County Historical Society, 2405 Belmont Road in Grand Forks on Monday, October 18.   This is an excellent opportunity for students to see actual items used by American soldiers during the Vietnam conflict.  This includes uniforms, grenades, c-rations, purple heart medals, etc.  There is an actual army backpack like those carried by the American Soldiers that students can try on.  Photos taken during the war will be on display as well as the stories of individual soldiers.  Contact the Myra museum for tour days and times  (701)775-2216. 

Just what is The Big Read Project? 

Herald staff writer Paulette Tobin tells us in the following article published on August 14, 2010.

Coming Soon To Grand Forks: The Big Read, Author Tim O’Brien to visit Oct. 14-15

The Grand Forks Public Library has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to host The Big Read in Grand Forks with activities from Oct. 14 through Nov. 15 including a visit from award-winning author and Minnesota native Tim O’Brien.

The Big Read in Grand Forks will focus on O’Brien’s book “The Things They Carried,” a fictionalized memoir of an infantry soldier as his platoon trudges through the jungles of Vietnam.

“We chose this book because of its potential appeal to those who may not have a habit of reading books for recreation,” Wendy Wendt, director of Grand Forks Public Library, said in a news release.

“We also thought the strong armed forces presence in the greater Grand Forks area would afford many community members a story in which they could identify – veterans, active-duty military and their family members.”

Also, the book may offer some small insight into the sacrifices made for this country by those who haven’t served in the military, she said.

“The Things They Carried” was a finalist for both the 1990Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, according to the book’s review.

“They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die,” O’Brien wrote in the book “Grief, terror, love, longing… these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to.” calls the book a “sly, almost hallucinatory book that is neither memoir nor novel nor collection of short stories but rather an artful combination of all three.”

O’Brien, 63, was born in Austin, Minn., and grew up in Worthington, Minn. He graduated from Macalester College in 1968 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and was drafted. He served in Vietnam and was assigned to the 3rd Platoon, A Company, 5th Battalion 46th Infantry Division, as a foot soldier. His tour of duty was 1969-70.

After Vietnam he became a graduate student at Harvard. He had the opportunity to do an internship at the Washington Post, and eventually left Harvard to become a newspaper reporter, according to his online biography. His career as a reporter gave way to his fiction writing after publication of “If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Send Me Home.” He now is a visiting professor and endowed chair at Southwest Texas State University where he teaches in the creative writing program.

Grand Forks Public Library is one of 75 not-for-profits including arts and cultural organizations, libraries and universities to receive a grant to host a Big Read project from September to June 2011. The Big Read gives communities the opportunity to come together to read, discuss and celebrate one of 31 selections from U.S. and world literature, according to a press release from the library.

Big Read community partners include Grand Force Air Force Base, the Grand Forks Public School District, Northland Community and Technical College and UND, which will bring O’Brien to Grand Forks on Oct. 14-15.

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. For more information about The Big Read, please visit

To download The Big Read brochure click on this link: