This year’s Nevada Reads book selections fit in well with the last 12 months of pandemic-related stress: a pair of memoirs that make connections between literature and the natural world.
Nevada Reads is a statewide book club program of Nevada Humanities that invites Nevadans to read works of literature selected around an annual theme, which in 2021 is “Cultivating Environmental Literacy.” Nevada Humanities is seeking donations to help make this year’s selections available as e-books in libraries so that more people will be able to access the volumes.
In addition, the program hosts virtual community events – including one with this year’s authors on Earth Day, April 22 — for readers to lean the back stories of the books and discuss the selections. Registration may be completed online.
Nevada Reads 2021 selections are two memoirs: “Miracle Country: A Memoir” by Kendra Atleework and “World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Both books are available on OverDrive through May for every county in the state. The e-book service offers no wait and a virtual book experience.
Spanning a collection of 28 essays with accompanying illustrations, each short essay in “World of Wonders” explores the relationship between a particular plant or animal, introducing new facts and facets of natural wonder, interwoven with Nezhukumatathil’s life story and experiences. Similarly, “Miracle Country” emphasizes Atleework’s connection with her family and home, thoughtfully weaving together historical accounts and indigenous narratives alongside environmental history.
Programming related to the selected books is scheduled throughout the state in 2021, including online book clubs, outdoor adventures, virtual workshops, and community partnership-led initiatives. Program details will be announced throughout the year.
The program also encourages participants to share their photos, haikus, and artwork related to the books. Photos of readers with a Nevada Reads book in their favorite place indoors or outdoors, illustrations and artwork inspired by the books, or haikus and poems in praise of nature may be sent to to Kathleen Kuo at firstname.lastname@example.org or by tagging the program on social media using #nvreads and #nvwondersofnature.
About the authors
Kendra Atleework, author of “Miracle Country: A Memoir.” grew up in Swall Meadows, in the Owens Valley of the eastern Sierra Nevada, a beautiful, if harsh, landscape, prone to wildfires, blizzards, and gale-force winds. After her mother died of a rare autoimmune disease when Atleework was 16, her once-beloved desert world came to feel empty and hostile, as climate change, drought, and wildfires intensified.
The Atleework family fell apart, even as her father tried to keep them together. Atleework escaped to Los Angeles, and then Minneapolis, land of tall trees, full lakes, water everywhere. But after years of avoiding her troubled hometown, she realized that she needed to come to terms with its past and present and had to go back. “Miracle Country” is a moving and unforgettable memoir of flight and return, emptiness and bounty, the realities of a harsh and changing climate, and the true meaning of home.
‘World of Wonders’
Aimee Nezhukumatathil is an award-winning poet. “World of Wonders” is her debut work of nonfiction—a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire the planet’s humans.
As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted, or how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape, she was able to turn to our world’s fierce and funny creatures for guidance.
Even in the strange and the unlovely parts of nature, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world’s gifts. Warm, lyrical, and gorgeously illustrated by Fumi Nakamura, World of Wonders is a book of sustenance and joy.
Earth Day event
The free Zoom event at 1 p.m. April 22 will feature a discussion and question and answer segment moderated by author and educator Gayle Brandeis. The two authors will discuss their respective books, their experiences and motivation for writing these memoirs, and their thoughts on the connection between literature and the natural world.
Those with questions for the authors may send email to Kathleen Kuo at email@example.com