Great Books shifts focus to ethnic literary classics

CHICAGO: The Great Books Foundation has begun a grassroots campaign

to update its image and broaden its audience. Its first efforts are

centering on the Latino market.

The foundation, formed in 1947 to promote classic works of literature,

runs discussion groups on various books, publishes literary anthologies,

and trains teachers on reading techniques.

But in recent years, it's been seen as ignoring ethnic groups, focusing

only on a core group of European writers. So it is starting the National

Latino Conversation, a series of discussions about works by noted Latino

authors, in Houston, New York, Chicago, and Seattle. It also plans to

publish an anthology of Latino literature, and has published an

anthology of Jewish writers.

The foundation is also working with community-based groups across the US

to focus on other ethnic literature, and to discover what types of

writers would interest various markets.

A magazine has launched, Common Review, featuring articles on

African-American writers and others. The magazine's website sums up the

new philosophy of the foundation: "Firmly committed to reading and

discussing books that have stood the test of time, we also recognize

that the task of intellectual and cultural engagement cannot stop with

yesterday's news - or even yesterday's classics. Ideas don't stand

still, nor will we."

The foundation is handling its new image campaign in-house with help

from an individual PR exec, said president Peter Temes.

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