JP Reads, an annual program aimed at getting the whole neighborhood to read and interact over a single book, is returning this year with a big guest. Pulitzer Prize-winning author and part-time Boston resident Junot Díaz will come to Jamaica Plain in October for an author talk.
Díaz’s debut, “Drown,” a collection of interlocking short stories, will be the focus of JP Reads this month and in October. Díaz himself will participate in an author talk on Oct. 25 at the Footlight Club.
This year will see the first JP Reads writing contest. JP residents to submit short stories on the theme of “escape” by Sept. 23. The winning story will be published in the Gazette.
JP Resident Debka Colson, who is spearheading the contest, is also offering a free creative writing workshop at the Jamaica Plain Branch Library on Sat., Sept. 14.
“We were inspired to have a writing contest because of the very nature of Díaz’s writing,” organizer Nina Berger told the Gazette. “We chose Díaz because he his books bring issues to light that resonate with the JP community. His writing is so powerful, accessible, inspiring [and we’re] hoping that [JP Reads] programming will bring together different sides of JP to talk about some difficult issues of race, class, inclusion and immigration, while also celebrating the richness of Dominican and Caribbean culture.”
Díaz, a Dominican-American, prominently features the immigrant experience in his writing. JP is home to many residents with Dominican heritage. Díaz won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his 2008 novel “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”
“With many Latino residents, political and social rights activists in our midst, it seemed liked a meaningful way for our community to come together around some very difficult issues through literature,” Berger said. “And we’re hoping that a writing contest would give voice to the many different populations that live in our community, inspiring folks to tell their own stories.”
JP Reads will also feature a performance element to the contest on Oct. 6, where entrants can choose to read their stories out loud.
JP Reads was formed in 2011 by three JP residents: Barbara Rhodes, the children’s librarian at the Jamaica Plain Branch Library; Lynn Waskelis of the Loring-Greenough House; and Berger, a publicist for museums at Wellesley College and Brandeis University. They were inspired by a similar community-wide reading event in West Roxbury.
For more information, see jpreads.org.