You can help choose the Big Read Book

Three finalists for the next Big Read have been chosen. Now it’s time for the rest of us to vote. CONTRIBUTED

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Three finalists for the next Big Read have been chosen. Now it’s time for the rest of us to vote. CONTRIBUTED

A selection committee composed of local librarians and volunteers has chosen three finalists for the next Big Read. Now it’s time for the rest of us to get involved and decide which of the three will be read and discussed throughout our community next spring.

A public vote will determine the winner. Votes can be cast at public libraries, academic libraries, Books & Co., or online at The winning title will be announced at the end of October.

“This year’s finalists are quite diverse and have wide appeal,” says Ben Murphy, Materials Selection Librarian at the Dayton Metro Library and co-chair of the Big Read. “We have a classic dystopian novel that is the basis for one of the year’s most talked-about new TV shows, a novel about a family coping with the sudden death of their teenage daughter, and a heartwarming nonfiction book about a nationally recognized service dog organization based here in the Miami Valley. Whichever title wins, I know a lot of lively discussions and events are in store.”

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One of the books under consideration has a couple of local connections. It’s written by an author who grew up in Dayton — Melissa Faye Greene — and tells the story of 4 Paws for Ability, the nationally-recognized nonprofit agency based in Xenia.

Here are the finalists:

"The Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love" is the story of Karen Shirk, a woman who was told she was "too disabled" to be given a service dog. Despite being ventilator-dependent and immobile, she decided to raise and train her own therapy dog. In the process, she found many people, even children, get the same negative response when they apply for a service animal.

Karen decided to train dogs for children with disabilities, and later veterans from recent conflicts who have developed PTSD or lost the use of limbs or hearing while in combat. After two decades and a thousand service dogs (and children) later, 4 Paws for Ability is now the largest organization whose primary mission is to place service dogs with children. Greene, a two-time National Book Award nominee, tells the stories of children and dogs who have been placed together, prisoners who help train the dogs, and veterans who benefit from service dogs. Each story proves that the unconditional love of a dog can change lives.

"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood is the classic dystopian novel that was originally published in 1985 and has recently been made into a Hulu television series. It follows the life and musings of the handmaid Offred, who lives in the rigidly structured and oppressive Republic of Gilead, once part of the United States. As a fertile young woman, she has only one job – to get pregnant and have a baby by an important man to whom she is assigned.

With her basic rights and freedoms curtailed, she’s not allowed to read or write, drink coffee or alcohol, or even leave the Commander’s house on her own, and the rituals she endures are horrifying. But Offred remembers a time before, when she had a job, a husband, a daughter, and her own name.

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The third option is "Everything I Never Told You" by Celeste Ng. Told by alternating characters, Ng's novel follows the Lee family before and after the mysterious death of Lydia, the middle child and stellar high school student who disappears one day and is later found at the bottom of a lake. Was she murdered? Did she commit suicide? Set in Ohio in the late 1970s, the mystery focuses on James, a professor and first generation Chinese immigrant; Marilyn, a woman who gave up her dreams of becoming a doctor and their three children who each have their own struggles.

“When deciding what titles will appear on the final ballot, the committee looks for thought-provoking books that are well-written and that will appeal to a wide audience, that offer opportunities for stimulating discussions and programs, that lend themselves to community partnerships and possible author visits, and that are available in multiple formats — including print, e-media, audio book, and large print,” explains Murphy.”

Today The Big Read includes 10 public library systems and three academic libraries spread across five counties, as well as a bookstore and a nonprofit literacy organization.

DAI announces chief curator

Jerry N. Smith will be coming to Dayton as the Dayton Art Institute’s chief curator. He’ll assume his new role Sept. 26.

He most recently served as the Hazel and William Hough Chief Curator and Interim Director at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Fla.

In his new position Smith will provide leadership to the museum’s curatorial department, guiding the vision of future collection installations and special exhibitions. A key part of that responsibility will be the re-installation and reinterpretation of the museum’s permanent collection galleries.

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“Dr. Smith possesses an extensive curatorial, scholarly and administrative background — skills that will be immediately utilized as the museum prepares for its centennial in 2019,” says Michael R. Roediger, the museum’s director and CEO.

Smith says he’s honored to be part of the museum at this significant time in the museum’s history. “With a world-class collection and storied history, the DAI has a tremendous amount to celebrate with its coming centennial,” he said.

Before serving in Florida, Smith held leadership positions at the Phoenix Art Museum where he began as associate curator in 2005 and was appointed to Curator of American and Western American Art in 2009. In 2014, he was named Curator of American and European Art to 1950 and Art of the American West.

Smith holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art history from Arizona State University and received his Ph.D. in the history of art from the University of Kansas. Active in The Association of Art Museum Curators, he serves in career support groups, as liaison between mentors and mentees, and currently sits on the governance and nominating committee.

Lincoln Society celebrates Courthouse statue

It’s been one year since the unveiling of the Abraham Lincoln statue on Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton. To mark the anniversary, The Lincoln Society of Dayton will hold a public celebration at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 10.

The event kicks off with music of the 1860s, the laying of a wreath by sculptor Mike Major and a drum cadence by Col. (ret) Allan Howey. Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln will escort attendees to the courtroom for the program.

You’ll learn about the connections between Dayton and Mr. Lincoln through the words of poet Herbert Woodward Martin and actor Scott Stoney, who will portray Robert C. Schenck as “Lincoln’s best friend in Dayton.” Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln will reminisce about their visit to Dayton in 1859 when Mr. Lincoln spoke strongly against the expansion of slavery.

Also on the program will be Robert Neff who will share the continuing Dayton connection with Lincoln through the VA center. Fred Lynch will serve as master of ceremonies and refreshments will be served. There will be historic items connected with Lincoln on display and medals from last year’s dedication will be available for purchase.

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The Human Race offers classes

Theater classes for kids, teens and adults, as well as workshops for Girl Scouts, are being offered at The Human Race Theatre Company this fall.

Options range from a musical theater class for kids ages 8-13 entitled “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” to Acting Basics for kids 9-14 and stage combat for kids 12-16. There are adult acting classes for those with mixed levels of experience and there are two-hour Saturday workshops for Brownie, Junior and Cadette scouts.

If the classes sound intriguing, contact Education Director Marilyn Klaben at (937) 461-3823 x3132 or

Auditions slated for Dayton Opera Chorus

Dayton Opera is calling all singers to audition for the 2017-2018 Dayton Opera Chorus. Auditions are scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 23, and from 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 26, at Fairmont Presbyterian Church, 3705 Far Hills Ave. in Kettering.

Those selected may perform in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” and Puccini’s “Turandot” on the Mead Stage of the Schuster Center. Singers auditioning for this professional, paid chorus are asked to prepare two pieces: one in a foreign language and one in English. The selections do not have to be from the opera repertoire. Auditions are open to all voices, and an accompanist will be provided at no charge. Artistic Director Thomas Bankston and Chorus Master Jeffrey Powell will hear all auditions. To schedule an audition or receive further information, please contact Pam Eyink at (937) 224-3521 x1091.

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Powell will screen football documentary today at The Neon

“We Believe In Us,” a documentary that focuses on the 2015 football season at Dayton’s Paul Laurance Dunbar High school and the life of its 27-year-old football coach, his staff, and his players, will have an encore screening at The Neon movie theater in downtown Dayton at 5:30 p.m. today, Sunday, Sept. 3. Tickets are $5 at the door.

“This story simultaneously captures the realism of generational poverty, heartbreak, stigma, stereotypes, and promise while embracing the power of Paul Laurance Dunbar High school tradition, hope, and survival,” says Alfred Edward Powell, the Dunbar coach who wrote, directed and produced the film. Powell, known as Coach A.J., has been involved in sports and creating football highlight films since the age of six. His film, he says, an insight ” into the life of inner-city youth and the men who attempt to mold, hold and — when necessary — scold them.”

Powell says he considers himself fortunate to have had eight of his former student athletes become professional players and/or or coaches.

Each week, arts writer Meredith Moss shares information about the people and events making news in our region. If you have an announcement you’d like to have included, contact Meredith:

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