All under one Shawl: The Big Read in Poughkeepsie

Big Read author Cynthia Ozick by John Sherffius

Big Read author Cynthia Ozick by John Sherffius

A National Endowment for the Arts program called the Big Read starts in Poughkeepsie on Sunday, October 20 with the kickoff of a regionwide focus on literature, film and arts centering on Cynthia Ozick’s book The Shawl, the Holocaust and the impact of survival on those who did survive. The Poughkeepsie Public Library District has made more than 50 copies available to loan, and has coordinated a multifaceted program with local libraries, colleges, schools and other community organizations, designed to inspire reflection on the book and the subject.

Published originally as two separate pieces in 1980, The Shawl has been hailed as a small masterpiece. Considered one of Ozick’s best works, the book deals with the experience of Rosa, a woman concealing her baby under a shawl while in a Nazi concentration camp at the end of World War II. In the second section, the novella Rosa, she lives out her days in a small hotel room, writing letters and recalling the despair of her losses and her life. In telling the story of her suffering, she points the way to hope through remembering and bearing witness.

Dr. Joshua Kotzin of Marist College will give an overview of The Shawl, describing the book’s place in the canon of Holocaust literature, on Sunday, October 20, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. The event will be hosted by the Spackenkill High School Fine Arts Department in the school’s auditorium on Hagan Drive in Spackenkill. A prerecorded interview with author Cynthia Ozick will be shown, and Spackenkill art students will exhibit their work in the lobby, while the Choral and Instrumental Music Departments will perform selected Holocaust-related works.


On Tuesday, October 22 at 6:30 p.m., Marist College will host a workshop, “Private Memory/Public Memory: Writing Our Individual and Communal Histories,” with Marist associate professor of English Dr. Lea Graham, who will guide participants through a creative writing exercise based on memories of historical events. This event is intended for adults of college age and up, and will be held in Fontaine Hall on the Marist campus. Registration is required for the workshop at or by calling (845) 485-3445, extension 3702.