SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Last spring, the publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman generated an emotional tsunami from readers who had long treasured her classic To Kill a Mockingbird. Scotch Plains librarians, working alongside New Jersey historian, Dr. Linda Caldwell Epps, resolved to create a book and film discussion series that would delve deeper into readers’ responses to books by Harper Lee and several of her contemporaries who dealt with issues of race in their works.

Participants will look back at race relations in this country during our lifetimes by reading the works of Lee, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Malcom X, Alex Haley, and Toni Morrison. Working together, we will examine the evolution of our own thinking about race, the progress and setbacks of the last half century and the challenges that face us now. The reading of each book will be accompanied by the viewing of a relevant movie.

The group will be open to adults and high school students, but will be limited in size, due to the limited number of books available to lend or download.  Registration for the book discussions and field trip will begin on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 on the Scotch Plains Public Library web site:, and in person at the library. No registration is necessary for the films.

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The series calendar is as follows:

  • Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 -- Registration begins
  • Monday, Jan. 18, at 4:00 p.m. -- Martin Luther King Day of Service: Distribution of books for Feb. 3 discussion
  • Wednesday, Feb. 3, 6:30 p.m. -- Book Discussion: To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman
  • Thursday, Feb.y 11, 6:30 p.m. -- Film Screening: To Kill a Mockingbird (1963; 129 minutes; NR)
  • Thursday, Feb.y 11, 6:30 p.m. -- Film Screening: A Raisin in the Sun (1961; 128 minutes; NR)
  • Wednesday, Feb. 17, 6:30 p.m. -- Book Discussion: A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry  and Clybourne Park, by Bruce Norris
  • Thursday, February 25, 6:30 p.m. -- Film Screening: The Price of the Ticket (1990; 87 minutes; NR)
  • Wednesday, March 2, 6:30 p.m. -- Book Discussion: The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
    Wednesday, March 23, 6:30 p.m. -- Book Discussion: The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X with Alex Haley
  • Thursday, March 24, 6:00 p.m. -- Film Screening: Malcolm X (1992; 201 minutes; PG-13)
  • Saturday, April 2, 11:00 a.m. --  Guided tour of the Malcom X and Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in Manhattan. This is not an official library trip, and participants will pay for their own expenses. Participants may arrange their own transportation, or travel on public transportation as part of a group. More details will be available on a separate information sheet.
  • Wednesday, May 4, 6:30 p.m. -- Book Discussion: God Help the Child, by Toni Morrison

This series was made possible in part by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this series do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. Funding by the Friends of Scotch Plains Public Library has been instrumental in bringing this series to the public.

Scotch Plains Public Library programs are free and open to the public. The Scotch Plains Library is located at 1927 Bartle Ave., one block from Park Avenue in the center of town.