chapter  4
42 Pages


Three smiling men in business suits gather around a gleaming new car while a fourth man seated at the wheel offers the car keys through the rolled-down window (see Figure 4.1). The man in the driving seat is Ziad Ojakli, Ford Motor Company Group Vice-President for Government and Community Relations. Receiving the keys from him is David Kipen, employee of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Director of the Big Read program, which has made grants to hundreds of OBOC shared-reading events across the United States since 2006. Looking on as the 2008 Ford Hybrid Escape is donated to the program are NEA Chair, Dana Gioia, and Ford Motor Company Washington Counsel, James W. Carroll, Jr. The customized car is brightly colored and covered in a pattern that repeats the Big Read logo. According to the caption accompanying the photograph, the Ford will “help build awareness of the Big Read” and “help inspire new readers” by transporting NEA staff as they “‘criss-cross’ the country to attend and speak at Big Read events.” Men, cars, and a road trip across the US: these constitute a powerful appeal to a masculine American mythos of mobility and individual agency, of self-discovery and self-transformation. Partially visible in the photograph is a slogan emblazoned on the side of the car, “Escape with a book,” a witty, if obvious, play on the model name for this particular Ford vehicle and a reference to the imaginative possibilities that reading books is commonly believed to inspire.