Book selection tells the story of a Grand Canyon speed record set in 1983

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FARMINGTON — San Juan College will host a series of events with a Southwest author in the school’s One Book, One Community program this week.  

Each year, the college invites the community to read a selected book and participate in events with the author, as well as respond to the book. This year’s book is called “The Emerald Mile” by Kevin Fedarko.

Fedarko, who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, said the book is about “three rather deranged” river guides who used a spring flood as a sling shot to propel a wooden dory called the Emerald Mile through the length of the Grand Canyon to set a speed record in 1983.

The 277-mile journey usually takes a commercial outfit more than two weeks to complete, but the Emerald Mile’s crew completed the journey in 37 hours, Fedarko said. 

The book also discusses issues with the Grand Canyon Dam due to the massive flooding, as well as biology, conservation, history, mathematics and psychology. 

Today’s events are a book signing from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the San Juan College Library; an author meet and greet from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Black Box next to the Little Theater; and an author presentation from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Central Classroom Complex in the Little Theater. The events are free and open to the public. 

The One Book, One Community program, which began in 2010, aims to “bring us together for assorted events that are associated with the book or the content of the book,” according to Danielle Sullivan, San Juan College assistant professor of English. 

Each year, a 10-person committee of representatives from the college campus, local high schools and the community select a book to invite the community to read. The book is integrated into courses at the college and even at the high school — Sullivan said the selected book is on the high schools’ summer reading lists. 

Fedarko said it’s “incredibly flattering and a little bit intimidating” that a whole community is invited to read his book, but it opens up an interesting relationship between readers and an author.
 
“Reading is largely a solitary act and is a conversation that occurs between a reader and author usually,” Fedarko said. “… Very rarely is it the case that people are given the chance to open up that conversation, so that it’s a conversation between an entire community and an author. I guess I find that gratifying and exciting.” 

Sullivan said there are more One Book, One Community events scheduled for the coming weeks and into the spring semester, including a conference for participating students and community members to share research relating to the book. 

San Juan College history professor Kelly Robison said honors students in his history classes are tasked with preparing a 15-minute presentation to unveil at the conference in November. Students are currently preparing project proposals — due next week — that can cover a broad array of topics that “have to do, in some way, with the historical connections between the book and what happened in history.” 

Robison said this is the first year he’s integrated the One Book, One Community selection in his curriculum and using the book as a spring board for a research project is beneficial for students. 

“From the historical perspective, it gets them deeper into the history,” Robison said. “They can take a look — broadly defined — at the history of the Grand Canyon and this area, so they gain some content knowledge, but they also get the added experience of doing historical research (and) they get to give a presentation, which is something that we don’t normally do in this little history class.” 

A full calendar of events is available on the program's website, http://bit.ly/2ysF4Zz.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621. 

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