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AMERICAN MOSAIC - October 5, 2001 - 2001-10-05


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.


This is Doug Johnson. On our program today:

We play music by Isaac Stern ...

answer a question about engagements ...

and tell about a special reading project taking place in Chicago.

One Book, One Chicago


Each year, the city of Chicago, Illinois, observes Library Week. This year the celebration of reading is called “One Book, One Chicago.” City officials hope to influence more people to read and enjoy books. Shep O’Neal has more.


To observe ”One Book, One Chicago”, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has asked all the people in the city to read the same book. It is “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Harper Lee wrote “To Kill A Mockingbird” in Nineteen-Sixty. It won the Pulitzer Prize. The story makes a strong statement against racial injustice. The organizers of Library Week hope the book will help people discuss racial issues.

The story tells about a white lawyer in the American South during the Nineteen-Thirties. Atticus Finch lives in the state of Alabama. He defends a black man wrongly accused of sexually attacking a white woman. People in his small town react angrily when Atticus Finch accepts the case.

His young daughter Scout tells the story. Its message is that it is important to do the right thing. The book shows that this is true even if it means going against social pressures.

For the project, libraries in Chicago bought thousands more copies of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Some are in Polish, Spanish and Chinese. Mary Dempsey is the city’s library chief. She says many people have borrowed the book. Bookstores have reported an increase in sales of the book, too. Planners say tens of thousands of people probably will have read ”To Kill a Mockingbird” by the end of Chicago Library Week October twelfth.

People are discussing the book at local libraries. Groups also are meeting to discuss the book at local coffee shops, bookstores and in private homes. They also are exchanging ideas on the Internet. Libraries are showing the film that was made from the book in Nineteen-Sixty-Two. Actor Gregory Peck won an Academy Award for his performance as Atticus Finch. Chicago lawyers will enact a trial similar to the one that provides the central conflict of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The idea of having everyone in a city read the same book began four years ago. Library worker Nancy Pearl started it in Seattle, Washington after receiving money for a special project. Now Seattle does it every year. Several other cities have followed the example. They include Buffalo and Rochester, New York; Springfield, Illinois and Boise, Idaho.



Our VOA listener question this week comes from Ukraine. Oleg Palayda asks about engagements in the United States. The period of engagement is the time between the marriage proposal and the wedding ceremony. Two people agree to marry when they decide to spend their lives together.

The man usually gives the woman a diamond engagement ring. That tradition is said to have started when Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave a diamond ring to the woman he wanted to marry. The diamond represented beauty.

He placed it on the third finger of her left hand. He chose that finger because it was thought that a blood vessel or nerve in that finger went directly to the heart. Today, we know that this is not true. Yet the tradition continues.

Americans generally are engaged for a period of about one year if they are planning a wedding ceremony and party. During this time, friends of the bride may hold a party called a bridal shower. Women friends and family members give the bride gifts she will need as a wife. These could include cooking equipment or new clothing.

Friends of the groom may have a bachelor party for him. This usually takes place the night before the wedding. Only men are invited to the bachelor party. It is considered the groom’s last night out as an unmarried man.

During the marriage ceremony, the bride and groom usually exchange gold rings that represent the idea that their union will continue forever. The wife often wears both the wedding ring and engagement ring on the same finger. The husband wears his ring on the third finger of his left hand.

Many people say the purpose of the engagement period is to permit enough time to plan the wedding. But another purpose is to let enough time pass so the two people are sure they want to marry each other. Either person may decide to break the engagement. If this happens, the woman usually returns the ring to the man. They also return any wedding or shower gifts they have received.

Isaac Stern


World famous violinist Isaac Stern died last month. He was eighty-one years old. Shirley Griffith tells us about him and his music.


Isaac Stern was born in what is now Ukraine in Nineteen-Twenty. He came to the United States with his parents when he was one year old. He grew up in San Francisco, California. His mother began teaching him the piano when he was six. He began learning the violin after hearing a friend play the instrument. Later, he studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He performed publicly for the first time at the age of sixteen.

By Nineteen-Thirty-Nine, Isaac Stern was playing concerts all over the world. Here he plays Dvorak's “Humoresque” with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra.


Isaac Stern first played at the famous Carnegie Hall in New York City in Nineteen-Forty-Three. He loved playing in the same hall where many great musicians had performed. He organized a committee to save Carnegie Hall when it was in danger of being torn down in Nineteen-Sixty.

Isaac Stern was a great teacher. He was one of the most honored musicians in the world. He played with almost every major orchestra. He became one of the most recorded musicians in history. We leave you now with Isaac Stern playing Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.



This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. And I hope you will join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by Nancy Steinbach and Jerilyn Watson. Our studio engineers were Michael Dubinsky and Tom Verba. And our producer was Caty Weaver.