Kansas City will join more than 100 cities this fall in the Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts that encourages Americans to read and discuss a single book within their communities.
Kansas City’s Big Read will be of A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway’s World War I novel about a young American who offers his services as an ambulance driver on the Italian front and falls in love with a beautiful nurse.
The Kansas City Public Library, Park University and the National World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial won an NEA grant approval to host the Big Read from mid-October to mid-November in Kansas City.
More than 500 copies of the book will be given away to participants, with lectures, exhibits, film screenings and book discussions among the events. A complete schedule is to be released later this month.
Henry Fortunato, director of public affairs for the Kansas City Public Library, was delighted that A Farewell to Arms was on the list of Big Read book choices.
"There are ideal connections between this book and Kansas City," Fortunato said. "After Hemingway was a reporter for The Kansas City Star, he went to the Italian front to be an ambulance driver. And it was from those experiences that he wrote A Farewell to Arms.
"And a portion of the book was written in Kansas City. In fact, in A Farewell to Arms there is a Caesarean birth. Well, he wrote that while his child was being born in Kansas City and the wife was having a Caesarean."
Beyond local ties, Fortunato said that A Farewell to Arms is a great work of American literature that continues to enthrall readers nearly 80 years after its original publication.
"It’s a story of love and war," Fortunato said. "And we have people who are in love and war right now. I think it should resonate."