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Press Release



September 30, 2011

Cowley College to take part in The Big Read�Wichita


Cowley College is pleased to join both regional and national partners in The Big Read—Wichita. The National Endowment for the Arts sponsors this program in partnership with Arts Midwest with the goal of engaging the country in reading--one community at a time. Wichita has chosen Tim O’Brien’s gripping novel The Things They Carried as this year’s focus.

According to Wichita’s Big Read website, “The Things They Carried is a fascinating novel [featuring] interconnected short stories. Though fictional, they are as believable as memoir and drawn from the author’s own experiences fighting in Vietnam.  The title story begins with a literal list of the physical items carried by soldiers in combat – guns, ammunition, photographs -- but then deftly turns to examining their memories and thoughts. Published in 1990, it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award.” 

A limited number of free novels will be made available to Cowley students and employees. The first ten individuals who commit to reading the novel as part of The Big Read will be eligible for a free copy of The Things They Carried. Students and employees may contact library director to be placed on a list for these books. In addition, Cowley adjunct instructor Kay Ryan will be leading two book discussions in conjunction with our local participation in The Big Read—Wichita. The first discussion will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 12:30 in BC202  and will give background information about the author and the book. The classroom will feature an ITV link to our Mulvane site so that students on both campuses can participate. A follow-up discussion will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 25 at 12:30 in BC202.  Participants will discuss the narrative techniques that O’Brien uses in his novel as well as the various themes that this novel presents.

O’Brien himself said that “In every book that I have written, I have had the twins of love and evil.”  Discussion facilitator Ryan adds, “In this novel, these two paradoxes present themselves in the setting of Vietnam and in the memorable characters themselves. Like all great writers, his passion is conveyed to us and we are left to grapple with the truths he presents. This is a novel with the setting of war, but it is ultimately a novel about how stories save us.”

The events culminate with an appearance from author Tim O’Brien on Thursday, Nov. 3 from 7-8 p.m. in Wichita. Cowley will reserve a bus to transport students and employees to this event.

Various events including exhibits and book discussions will be held in the Wichita area. Highlights of the events can be found below. A complete list of activities is available at

Wichita-area activities include, but are not limited to, the following:
The Big Read Kick-Off
Start The Big Read - Wichita with a big celebration! The McConnell Air Force Base Honor Guard will present the colors, The Jukes featuring Clif Major will play '60s tunes and Ballet Wichita will perform. See Robert Rauschenberg's Signs, the artwork featured on this year's poster, and other artwork in a special exhibit that relates to "The Things They Carried." Pick up a free copy of the book, reader's guide and poster (while supplies last) and enjoy refreshments.
2-4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1, Wichita Art Museum, 1400 W. Museum Blvd., Wichita, KS 67203, (316) 268-4921

The Vietnam War Experience in Images
Pulitzer Prize candidate and Kansas native Bill Snead served as a photo journalist and photo manager of a national wire service in Vietnam from 1967-1969. Snead was raised in Lawrence and began his journalistic career in 1954 at the Lawrence Journal-World. During the month of October, he will display his photos from his years running the UPI's photo bureau in Saigon at the Andover Public Library. His images chronicle the war with an array of striking work that earned him a place in history.  His talk on Saturday, Oct. 15, will focus on his experiences in Vietnam, the people he worked with and the stories and people he covered, including photos he took during his time in Vietnam.

On display Saturday, Oct. 1 – Monday, Oct. 31, Andover Public Library, 1511 E. Central Ave, Andover, KS 67002, (316) 558-3500

Talk: 1-2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15, Andover Public Library, 1511 E. Central Ave, Andover, KS 67002, (316) 558-3500

  • "The Things They Carried" Book Discussion
    Will Fahey, decorated Marine Corps Officer during the Vietnam Conflict (Con Thien and Khe Sanh among others) and a popular Vietnam War historian/lecturer at several universities including Emory, Duke, Stanford and UCLA, hosts a book discussion of "The Things They Carried." Please register in advance by calling (316) 261-8500.
    2:30-3:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 14, Mead's Corner, 430 E. Douglas, Wichita, KS 67202, (316) 201-1900
  • The Last Patrol
    Local Vietnam re-enactors "The Last Patrol" will be at the Andover Public Library with "the things they carried" in Vietnam. The group has collected and exhibits authentic Vietnam equipment, including helicopters, jeeps and trucks. They will bring a M35A2C Vietnam gun-truck titled "Business as Usual," and a 1965 UH-1H Huey helicopter painted in the colors of 1/9 Cavalry "The Headhunters," a regiment that participated in some of the most fierce fighting of the war. All of the weapons are facsimiles. The Last Patrol will be in uniforms and will display their 80-pound packs and all the accoutrements.
    9 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15, Andover Public Library, 1511 E. Central Ave, Andover, KS 67002, (316) 558-3500
  • What Have We Done to War? Vietnam and Its Successors
    Vietnam changed Americans’ perception of war as our longest war to date.  Hesitant to commit so much money to a war that had troops on the ground for eight years, Americans were "gun shy" of military involvements. But in the past decade, all that changed. Dr. Gretchen Eick. professor of history at Friends University, will explore these changes and how they have affected Americans’ pocket books, psyches and politics. Pick up a free copy of "The Things They Carried," reader's guide and poster (while supplies last).
    2:30-3:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 16, National Center for Aviation Training (part of the Wichita Area Technical College) at Jabara Airport, 4004 N. Webb Rd., Wichita, KS 67226, (316) 677-1916 (Contact WATC Library for venue information)
  • Author Tim O'Brien
    Meet Big Read author Tim O'Brien. O'Brien's service in the United States Army (3rd Platoon, A Company, 5th Battery, 46th Infantry, 1969-1970) as a foot soldier has inspired him to write award-winning fiction and well-received non-fiction. His Vietnam War memoir "If I Die in a Combat Zone" was published in 1973. "Going After Cacciato" won the National Book Award in fiction in 1979. "In the Lake of the Woods" received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians and was named Best Novel of the Year by Time Magazine (1994). "The Things They Carried," published in 1990, received France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (Best Foreign Book Prize) and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. O'Brien teaches in the Master’s of Fine Arts Creative Writing Program at Texas State University-San Marcos. Books will be available for sale and signing following the program. Tim O'Brien's visit is made possible by Candlewood Suites - Wichita Airport, Friends of the Wichita Public Library, Friends University Library, USD 259 - Wichita Public Schools, Wichita State University Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Wichita State University Libraries.
    7-8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 3, Wichita State University Hughes Metropolitan Complex, 5015 E. 29th St. N., Wichita, KS 67220, (316) 261-8500 (Contact Wichita Public Library for more information)

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.