Post-apocalyptic author comes to Nevada County for Big Read program |

Post-apocalyptic author comes to Nevada County for Big Read program

John Orona
Staff Writer

Is survival enough?

In the midst of a post-apocalyptic plague that decimated the entire globe, once basic needs are met, what will sustain us and provide the will to go on? How important are the arts in our understanding of and grappling with our own humanity?

These are the questions Nevada County will wrestle with during its two-month-long Big Read program next year.

The Big Read is an annual initiative created by the National Endowment for the Arts that’s designed to broaden our understanding of the world, promote readership and bring communities together through synchronized, county-wide readings, discussions and activities centered on a single book and its themes.

The county chose as its book “Station Eleven” by Canadian novelist Emily St. John Mandel, a rare post-apocalyptic story of hope that follows a troupe of musicians and theater performers as they traverse between what remains of city-enclaves after a super-flu plague wipes out most of the world’s population.

The book weaves between the time from before the natural disaster hit and the present struggle of the traveling performers, using the arts and the memory of civilization past as a connecting thread.

According to adult services librarian Megan Lloyd, the book was chosen because it lends itself to discussions on the role of art in society and its power to elevate humanity beyond the pursuit of basic necessities.

“We wanted to discuss what do we need as a people, community and society to thrive and not just survive,” Lloyd said. “We have three cultural districts and a thriving art community, so we felt good about choosing this and the level of participation we would get.”

The event will kick-off March 3 — leaving plenty of time to start reading — with a panel discussion at the Nevada Theatre centered on the role the arts play in civilized society. Events will be held across the county throughout March and April 2020.

According to Lloyd, although the focus is on reading, there will be many other events geared toward drawing in the community and exploring the book’s themes, apart from turning pages. Some highlights include a wilderness survival workshop and an author talk with Mandel.

The county will partner with local organizations like the Nevada County Arts Council, InConcert Sierra and local artists to provide musical performances, film series, art shows and an escape room centered around the book’s themes.

“As much as we try to encourage reading, just being exposed to literature helps get people engaged with books.” Lloyd said.

Booklets that address the book’s themes for different age ranges will be available to ensure everyone can participate.

“Station Eleven” is unusually and intentionally upbeat for a post-apocalyptic tale, as Mandel wanted to write the book as a love letter to the world in which we find ourselves. In 2017, Santa Barbara held its Big Read author talk featuring Mandel the day after the Thomas Fire ignited — providing prescient context for the world and situations Mandel wrote about.

According to Lloyd, the ever-present threat of catastrophe in the minds of Nevada County residents will make the book a must-read.

“We can relate as a community to the themes of devastation, disaster and rebuilding,” Lloyd said. “Many will identify strongly with the characters in ‘Station Eleven.’”

Contact Staff Writer John Orona at or 530-477-4229.

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