Turns out some things in life are free. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, the Irish Arts Center is giving out 10,000 free books penned by Irish and Irish-American writers on Thursday. Volunteers began handing out the books, which were donated by authors and publishers, at transportation hubs and post offices across the city at 6 A.M.
"We thought it would be a really good alternative way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, 'cause you have the parade and then, you know, people associate it with drinking and stuff," said Jen Browne, 27, the box office and front-of-house manager at the Irish Arts Center. Browne is manning the Bronx give-away station at the steps to the Parkchester No. 6 train stop. "But this was a great way to highlight Irish culture on a day that it's all about being Irish," she said.
Even though most people passing by the table of books seemed perplexed by the idea of receiving a brand new book for free, most of them took one.
"When they hear the word 'free,' they're very surprised and they get excited," said Claire Burke, a 22-year-old intern at the Irish Arts Center who was also handing out books in the Bronx. Both Browne and Burke are of Irish descent.
Bronx resident Marie Jardine paused for a moment to receive her copy of "Forever" by the writer Pete Hamill whose parents emigrated to Brooklyn from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Jardine said she looked forward to reading a book by an Irish New Yorker for many reasons. "Because you're getting to learn about a new culture, you're getting to hear about a people who migrated to this country," she said. "It's beautiful."
"It's great to recognize literacy at all levels," added Parkchester resident Rachel Spiers, picking up a book to read on her hour-and-a-half long subway ride.
The Irish Arts Center is a cultural center that opened in 1972. The center organized its first Book Day with Speaker Christine Quinn and the New York City Council.
Volunteers are also handing out books in Inwood, Manhattan; at the St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island; in Park Slope, Brooklyn; and in Jackson Heights, Queens. The first book given out on Thursday was a copy of Robert Sullivan's "Rats" at 6:15 A.M. in the Bronx.