Whatcom Reads

The fight for freedom

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

In March 2016, when Whatcom County Library System executive director Christine Perkins reviewed Sunil Yapa’s debut novel, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, Donald Trump had not yet been elected president, and the surge of citizen activism that would arise as a direct result of his election had yet to come. 

A couple of years down the line, Yapa’s story set amid the 1999 protests in Seattle during a meeting of the World Trade Organization is more relevant that ever. Via the point of view of a number of characters—among them the adopted and estranged son of the police chief, a middle-aged idealistic revolutionary, two cops with issues, and a delegate from Sri Lanka—readers will discover that Yapa’s compelling tale of conflict and compassion is a universal one.

“The novel’s title references a poster made popular during the time of the protest, which carries the subheading ‘Keep Loving, Keep Fighting,’” Perkins wrote in her Cascadia Weekly review. “The author’s message is clear: If one deeply loves freedom and other people, one must fight to protect them. The fight may not be literal—it may mean committing oneself to understanding others’ points of view. At its simplest, the idea is that empathy is a deeply radical act.”

The oh-so-timely themes that arise from Yapa’s book made it a natural Whatcom READS choice for this year, organized by all the public and academic libraries in Bellingham and Whatcom County and their community partner, Village Books. Per usual, the countywide program that encourages everyone to read and discuss the same book will conclude with a number of in-person visits by the author—this year, those will take place March 8-10.

But in the days and weeks before Yapa’s five free visits—which include “An Evening with Sunil Yapa” keynote presentation at the Mount Baker Theatre—a dizzying array of book talks, gatherings, art events and live musical presentations at area libraries and bookstores will expand on the book’s focal points.

Music-wise, “Pete Seeger: The Man and the Music” with Hank & Claire (Feb. 1 at the Lynden Library and Feb. 2 at the Ferndale Library), “Songs of Protest & Social Justice” with Jimmy Brite (Feb. 3 at the Everson Library, and Feb. 24 at the North Fork Library), and “Songs of Action & Compassion” with Tracy Spring (Feb. 18 at the Firehouse PAC, and March 2 at Allied Arts) will explore the connections between great music and passionate activism.

“I’m personally excited about two particular programs that are just a little different,” WCLS community relations coordinator Lizz Roberts says, pointing to “Think and Drink: I Was There” Feb. 10 at Van Zandt Hall, and “Digging Deeper with Sunil Yapa” March 8 at the Deming Library.

“‘Digging Deeper’ will be a different kind of Whatcom READS author program,” she says. “We asked Yapa for a list of books that have influenced his work, and that evening he will talk about those titles. I know that writers will be especially interested in this one.

“For the ‘Think and Drink,’ we’ve found folks who were there at the WTO riots and want to talk about it,” she says. “Having been in a number of marches myself, it will be interesting to hear what it was like for others. It makes me wish I could visit the future to hear how parents will talk to their kids about what’s going on now.”

The Whatcom READS pick is available for checkout at all public libraries in Whatcom County in a variety of formats. For a full lineup of events, go to http://www.whatcomreads.org

More Words...
There There
Not your typical powwow

Tommy Orange did not grow up around books or aspire to be a writer. A recent graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, this debut novelist who came to writing late in life is making quite a splash with his first book, There There, a polyphonic story of 12 Urban…

more »
Identity Crisis
A look at Lawn Boy

When Bainbridge Island author Jonathan Evison visited Whatcom County in 2017 as part of the Whatcom READS program, we met a gregarious, intelligent, self-destructive and endearing writer who loves to talk about books and drink beer—a lot of beer. 

He presents himself as a bit of a sad…

more »
Our Towns
Discovering the heart of America

The title of James and Deborah Fallows’ new book, Our Towns: A 100,000-mile Journey into the Heart of America, recalls Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town. But where Wilder displays a feeling of despair lingering in America’s small towns, the Fallows find a spirit of satisfaction, if not…

more »
Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:30pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Festival of Music Community Concert

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Wednesday Farmers Market

3:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Downtown Sounds

5:30pm|Downtown Bellingham

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Swing Connection

6:00pm|Seafarers' Memorial Park

Backpacking Basics


Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Vegetarian Pakistani

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Brewers Cruise


Intro to Improv

7:00pm|Improv Playworks

Village Books
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Kids Can Cook, Science Edition

10:00am|Community Food Co-op

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Bow Farmers Market

1:00pm|Samish Bay Cheese

Blues and Brews

5:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Poetry Writing Group

5:30pm|Village Books

Jazz Jam

5:30pm|Illuminati Brewing

Ales & Sails

6:00pm| Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Pub Run

6:00pm|BBay Running

Elizabeth Park Summer Concert Series

6:00pm| Elizabeth Park

Riverwalk Concert Series

6:00pm|Riverwalk Plaza

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Commedia in the Park

7:00pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Village Books 2018 Cascadia Kids
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Commedia in the Park

7:00pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Wild Things

9:30am|Boulevard Park

Take a Swing at Arthritis

9:30am|North Bellingham Golf Course

Northwest Raspberry Festival


Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Coffee Tasting

3:00pm|Camber Cafe

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Beachside Barbecue

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Beachside Barbecue

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Beachside Barbecue

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Commercial Street Night Market

6:00pm|Commercial Street

Burlington Summer Nights

6:00pm|Burlington Visitors Center

Seafarers' Summer

6:00pm|Seafarers' Park

Salmon Dinner Sail

6:00pm|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Dancing on the Green

7:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Summer of Blood

7:00pm|Rexville Grange Amphitheater

Poetry Party

7:00pm|Village Books

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Joey Curtin and Jon Mutchler


Charlie King and Rebel Voices


Festival of Music Finale

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall


9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Village Books Trove Web Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 2018 Cascadia Kids