The popular Long Beach Reads One Book program has been revitalized by the Long Beach City College Foundation and Long Beach City College (LBCC) after a six-year hiatus. The New York Times Bestselling graphic novel “They Called Us Enemy” by actor, author, and social justice activist George Takei was selected to kick-off the reactivation of Long Beach Reads One Book. The months-long program will conclude with a huge community event with Takei at LBCC.
“Long Beach City College is thrilled to be part of the renaissance of Long Beach Reads One Book,” said Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees President Vivian Malauulu. “Speaking as a parent and an educator, I think having this citywide reading homework assignment will definitely enrich our children and our residents. Not only by promoting literacy and all of its wonderful benefits but to start an important discussion together as a community of the lessons we have learned from our government’s past mistakes.”
Founded in 2002, Long Beach Reads One Book is a community-focused cultural project designed to bring people together, foster community, and to raise the enjoyment of literacy by encouraging everyone in Long Beach to read the same book at the same time. The Long Beach Public Library Foundation organized this annual citywide effort until 2013.
“Long Beach City College is proud to be part of the movement to bring Long Beach Reads One Book back,” said LBCCD Superintendent-President Dr. Reagan Romali. “Participating in this wonderful citywide effort is a unique way to promote education in our community.”
“They Called Us Enemy” is a graphic memoir recounting Takei’s childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II and his firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys of childhood and the terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.
“Ours is a people’s democracy with the capacity to do extraordinary good but we are also fallible human beings. There are still a shocking number of people who are unaware of the time during World War II when the U.S. Government robbed their own citizens of due process and wrongly locked families behind barbed wire because they were of Japanese descent,” said Takei. “It greatly concerns me as I listen to the political rhetoric from some of our government officials today and realize that we still have not learned the lessons history taught us. I’m proud that we can use my graphic memoir as a way to engage and educate a huge number of people about the atrocities that our own government made so we never repeat the mistakes of the past.”
Over the next few months, residents are encouraged to read “They Called Us Enemy.” Takei’s book is available for purchase at Gatsby Books in Long Beach, major retail and online bookstores, and at both LBCC Viking Bookstores at the Liberal Arts Campus and Pacific Coast Campus. LBCC students can also borrow the book from the LBCC Libraries at both campuses where a limited number of books will also be available.
The return of Long Beach Reads One Book will close with a community book event with Takei at Long Beach City College on March 19, 2020.
“This is a great opportunity to bring back a beloved program, and to have George Takei present is an honor,” said LBCC Foundation Executive Director Paul Kaminski. “The Long Beach City College Foundation and Long Beach City College are thrilled to bring this community-building event back to Long Beach.”
Citywide “one book” programs began in Seattle in 1998 followed by Chicago in 2000. Long Beach is credited as the third major U.S. city to establish such a program. The first book chosen for the Long Beach project was “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom. The author came to Long Beach for a book discussion that was held at LBCC with more than 500 attendees, including many high school and college students.