"A Novel Idea" Celebrates Its 15th Year with More than Two Dozen Events

Posted By:  Tina Walker Davis
Date Posted:  3/21/2018

Fifteen years ago a social networking site called Facebook launched, George W. Bush began his second term in the Oval Office, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, and The River Why was selected as the first book for what would become Oregon’s largest community read program: “A Novel Idea.”


Deschutes Public Library proudly announces the 15th annual celebration of “A Novel Idea…Read Together.” Each year “A Novel Idea” brings together thousands of Deschutes County residents to read, discuss and attend a variety of free cultural and author events at the Library’s six branches and at partnering businesses. With No One Can Pronounce My Name, by Rakesh Satyal, the Library looks forward to engaging with long-time participants as well as people who are new to “A Novel Idea.”

“Bringing people together around one book creates shared experiences that foster community,” says Community Relations and Development Manager Chantal Strobel. “That’s so important in a growing area such as Central Oregon, and it’s been the magic of ‘A Novel Idea’ for 15 years. Each book takes us to different places, often introducing us to new cultures that bring new ideas into the conversation.”


The growth of “A Novel Idea” has continued year after year. When the program began in 2004, 600 people participated. Last year, the Library had nearly 7,000 people take part, whether it was checking out the book, engaging in a lecture or hands-on program, attending the author presentation—or, as is often the case, taking part in it all.


“A Novel Idea” kicks off on Saturday, April 14, at 3:00 p.m. at the Downtown Bend Library when COCC English professor Stacey Donohue provides a snapshot of No One Can Pronounce My Name and Jaspreet Arora provides a glimpse of the entertaining world of Bollywood. What follows is three weeks of programs that explore and expound upon the themes and ideas found in Satyal’s novel.


“We’re excited to offer up a range of programs to enhance the readers’ experience and enjoyment of the novel,” says Liz Goodrich, lead project coordinator for “A Novel Idea.” “We’ll look at Hinduism, the history of South Asians in the Pacific Northwest, women and gender in India, India’s colonial period, and the history of vampires in folklore and literature. We also have fun hands-on programs, like tasting Indian food, creating a handmade book of secrets, making bookmarks out of vintage saris, and trying a Bollywood-inspired dance workout. We of course include book discussions as well,” says Goodrich.


The events culminate with a free presentation by author Rakesh Satyal on Sunday, May 6, at 4:00 p.m. at Bend High School. A book signing follows Satyal’s presentation. Tickets are required for the free event and become available on April 21 at or at any Deschutes Public Library.


Reader’s guides will be available at each of the public libraries in Deschutes County beginning March 23. Free book club kits are available upon request—and while supplies last—by calling 541-312-1032.


About the Book: No One Can Pronounce My Name
No One Can Pronounce My Name is an insightful look into the lives of people who must reconcile the strictures of their culture and traditions with their own dreams and desires. It is a multigenerational story about immigrants and outsiders—those trying to find their place in American society and in their own families. BookPage said of the book: “No One Can Pronounce My Name dares to tackle life’s biggest questions, irrespective of nationality. Through a successful blend of pathos and humor, Satyal bravely explores themes of intimacy, identity and sexuality, asking his characters—and his readers—to closely examine the inalienable qualities that make us all human.”


About the Author: Rakesh Satyal
Rakesh Satyal is the author of Blue Boy, which won the 2000 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Debut Fiction and the 2010 Prose/Poetry Award from the Association of Asian American Studies. Satyal was a recipient of a 2010 Fellowship in Fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts and two fellowships from the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. His writing has appeared in New York magazine, Vulture, Out magazine, and The Awl. A graduate of Princeton University, he has taught in the publishing program at New York University and has been on the advisory committee for the annual PEN World Voices Festival. He lives in Brooklyn.

About the Donors

“A Novel Idea” is made possible by generous donors: Oregon Cultural Trust, Capsugel/Lonza, Oregon Arts Commission, US Bank, The Roundhouse Foundation, Deschutes County, the E.H. and M.E. Bowerman Advised Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, The Bulletin, and The Friends Organizations of the Deschutes Public Library. This program is supported in part by the Oregon Arts Commission, a state agency funded by the state of Oregon and the National Endowment for the Arts.


About the Programs

All programs are free. No registration is required unless noted with an asterisk (*).


A Novel Idea Kick-Off

Stacey Donohue provides a snapshot of No One Can Pronounce My Name and Jaspreet Arora provides a glimpse of the entertaining world of Bollywood.


Bollywood and BollyX

Immerse yourself in the cultural and entertaining expressions of Bollywood films and move to its beats with BollyX, the Bollywood dance workout. BollyX is a Bollywood-inspired dance-fitness program that combines dynamic choreography with music from Bollywood and around the world. Presenter Jaspreet Arora has been a Bhangra (North Indian Folk Dance) performer and instructor for many years and is a certified BollyX instructor.


Hinduism 101

Kristin Scheible will present a brief introduction to Hinduism, using the many references in No One Can Pronounce My Name as a framework. How does Hinduism inflect the various themes (cultural conventions, attitudes toward sexuality, relationships, obligations, identity) explored through the characters? What are some Hindu practical and theological concerns that transform in diaspora?


Taste of India at Mantra Indian Kitchen & Tap Room*

Explore the culinary traditions of India! Food plays an important role in No One Can Pronounce My Name. During this program, Runi Srikantaiah and his team from Mantra demonstrate traditional Indian cooking with a modern twist. Samples and recipes provided. Beverages available for purchase. Space is limited and registration is required.


Vampires: A History of the Creatures of the Night

Community Librarian Nate Pedersen explores the cultural history of the vampire in folklore and literature.


Workshop: Handmade Book of Secrets*

Many of the characters in No One Can Pronounce My Name are extremely private, with secret or unspoken ambitions, desires, or histories. In this workshop, we’ll create a personal handmade book to hold our own secret or rarely shared ambitions, desires, or histories. Space is limited and registration is required.


South Asians in the Pacific Northwest

Nalini Iyer of Seattle University and co-author of Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest discusses the long history of South Asian immigration to the Pacific Northwest. She will also discuss how South Asian American literature has evolved in the United States.


The Partition of British India

Explore how the British partition of India came about and how it continues to resonate even 70 years later. Keith Snodgrass of the South Asia Center at the University of Washington will describe how colonial policies utilized ethnic, religious, and other identities, and how some of these policies contributed to the way independence eventually took place.


Vintage Sari Bookmark*

Create a one-of-a kind bookmark using vintage saris, glass beads, and vintage trinkets. Jennifer Nordby, the creative mind behind Cultivate Creativity, leads the workshop and provides all that you'll need to make a unique masterpiece. Space is limited and registration is required.


More Together Than Alone*

One of the key themes in No One Can Pronounce My Name is loneliness­—and how loneliness can be both limiting and constructive. In this workshop, author Rakesh Satyal explores what makes strong characters, how writers can create them, and what literature might achieve when infused with both compassion and insight. Space is limited and registration is required.


Women and Gender in India

India’s culture is a rich and diverse one, one engrained in religion and custom. Dr. Anita Weiss of the University of Oregon explores the customs, traditions, and roles women and gender play in India, and how these roles have evolved within the framework of Hinduism and the changing political landscape of the times.


Community Art Display: No One Can Pronounce My Name Inspired Art Exhibit

  • April 9-July 9 | Downtown Bend Library, 601 NW Wall Street, Bend


Book Club Discussions


Main Event: Author Rakesh Satyal*

Deschutes Public Library welcomes Rakesh Satyal, author of No One Can Pronounce My Name, to Central Oregon for the final event of  “A Novel Idea ...Read Together.” *Tickets required; free tickets available April 21 at and at all Deschutes Public Libraries.

  • Sunday, May 6, 4:00 p.m. | Bend High Auditorium, 230 NE 6th Street, Bend



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