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NEA Big Read

Schedule of Programs

Programming related to the NEA Big Read took place from September 2020 through April 2021.

Past programming

Discussion/workshop: The Knowing was Always Right, April 22 via Zoom

Hosted by Charlotte England, PhD, and Daiva Markelis, PhD
Sponsored by the Coles County Arts Council and Academy of Lifelong Learning
This discussion/workshop looked at the way Harjo weaves dreams, poems and visions from her American Indian past into a narrative that reveals both the incredible sadness and the powerful beauty of her life. After discussing what makes Harjo's poetry, as well as her memoir, so remarkable, participants wrote on a childhood memory and then experimented with adding poetry, dreams, song lyrics, etc., in order to enrich their memoir.


Be an Animal: A Workshop with Megan Kaminski, April 20 via Zoom

Recommended ages: Grades 3-5
Sponsored by the Tarble Arts Center

Be an Animal is a workshop that looked to our animal kin for inspiration. Participants explored other ways of seeing, being and inhabiting this world as a point for opening our own creative potential. They learned lots from our more-than-human friends, discovered new things about themselves, and wrote some poems. Megan Kaminski is a poet and essayist, and the author of three books of poetry, "Deep City," "Desiring Map," and a new book, "Gentlewomen" (Noemi Press 2020), which explores care, trauma, and resilience as well as our estrangement from the natural world and from ourselves through the conceit of a trio of allegorical sisters.


Native Arts & Indigenous Flourishing: Reading and Presentation, April 19, via Zoom

Presented by author Kim Blaeser
Hosted by the EIU Department of English

The EIU English Department presented a reading and presentation by Kimberly Blaeser, past Wisconsin Poet Laureate and the author of five poetry collections including Copper Yearning, Apprenticed to Justice, and the 2020 bi-lingual Résister en dansant/Ikwe-niimi: Dancing Resistance Blaeser discussed her picto-poems and the role of art in Native communities.


Virtual book discussion, April 14, noon, on Zoom

Presented by Lake Land College Library

The Lake Land College Library hosted a discussion of the NEA Big Read selection "An American Sunrise," by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. English instructors Salisa Olmsted and Matt Landrus led discussion of Harjo's powerful collection of poetry that confronts the past - her Muscogee (Creek) Nation ancestors were uprooted in 1830 as a result of the Indian Removal Act.


Poetry and Movement series, Feb. 13, 20, 27, 3-4 p.m. on Zoom

A workshop with Jana Harper and Rebecca Steinberg
Presented by the Tarble Arts Center
Participants joined together online to experience short films from the Tarble Arts Center exhibition, "Press Play," read a poem from Joy Harjo's "An American Sunrise" and collectively participated in a gentle movement exercise led by facilitators and inspired by the poem.

Virtual book discussion, Feb. 25, 4 p.m., via Zoom

Sponsored by the Charleston Carnegie Public Library
The Charleston Carnegie Public Library hosted a discussion of U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo's book, "An American Sunrise."

Big Read Story Time, Feb. 18, 10:30-11 a.m., virtual event

Recording available on Facebook Live,
Presented by the Charleston Carnegie Public Library

Miss Brenda presents a special story time for preschoolers featuring stories from Native American authors, including the 2021 Caldecott Medal winner, "We are Water Protectors."


An Evening with Joan Kane, Feb. 4, 5-7 p.m., virtual event

Part of the Lions in Winter festival sponsored by the EIU Department of English
The EIU English Department presented a reading and craft talk with Inupiaq poet Joan Naviyuk Kane. Kane grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and writes about threats to her ancestral community. Loss of elders with specific cultural knowledge concerns her as she raises children. Lions in Winter is an annual literary festival hosted by EIU's Department of English that has included author readings; crafts talks by featured writers in fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction; editor panels; and book fairs.


NEA Big Read: A Conversation with Joy Harjo, Jan. 30, 2021, 1-2 p.m. CST, 2-3 p.m. EST

Virtual presentation via Microsoft Teams

Part of the Lions in Winter festival sponsored by the EIU Department of English
Co-sponsored by Broward County Library, Broward Public Library Foundation, Inc., and Florida Center for the Book

Joy Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation and current U.S. poet laureate, in a virtual conversation, as she reads works from her latest book An American Sunrise: Poems and has a moderated Q+A discussion. In 2019, Harjo was appointed the 23rd United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold the position. She recently was reappointed to the poistion for a third term. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo is an internationally known award-winning poet, writer, performer, and saxophone player of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation.


Virtual book discussion, Jan. 22, 2021, 6 p.m., via Zoom

The Mattoon Public Library hosted a discussion of the NEA Big Read selection "An American Sunrise," by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. The discussion was led by Stacy Fetters of Mattoon Public Library.


Lions in Winter Presents: An Evening with Brandon Hobson

Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, at 5 p.m., virtual event
Hosted by EIU English Department and Lions in Winter
EIU English presented this program, the first in this year's series of virtual Lions in Winter events: a reading and craft talk with National Book Award finalist Brandon Hobson, author of "Where the Dead Sit Talking" (Soho, 2018) and "The Removed" (HarperCollins, 2021). Hobson's novel, "Where the Dead Sit Talking," was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction. He is an assistant professor of Creative Writing at New Mexico State University and a writing mentor at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation Tribe of Oklahoma.


Virtual book discussion, Dec. 1, 2020, 4-5:30 p.m., via Zoom

The Academy of Lifelong Learning's Literary Divas book club discussed "An American Sunrise," by Joy Harjo, on Dec. 1. The academy is an outreach program that caters to adults who like to learn. The discussion leader was Marita Metzke.


Storytelling program, Nov. 9, 2020, live-streamed from the Doudna Fine Arts Center

A Peek Into the American Indian Way of Life Through Their History and Oral Traditions

Presented by Kim McIver Sigafus, Illinois Humanities Road Scholar

This presentation invited people into the world of the American Indian to discover what it once was to be Native, and what it means to be Native now. An Ojibwa, Kim was dressed in her traditional Native regalia, and presented on Native culture through oral traditions, language, and history. She discussed Native encampment life and drummed and sang an Ojibwa lullaby.

This program was funded by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Road Scholar Speakers Bureau, a program that provides organizations statewide with affordable, entertaining, and thought-provoking humanities events for their communities.

Book discussion, Sept. 28, 2020, private event

The Well Red Book Club discussed "An American Sunrise."

Virtual book discussion, Sept. 16, 2020, 5-7 p.m., via Zoom

The Tarble Arts Center Community Reads, a book club hosted online every third Wednesday of the month, discussed "An American Sunrise," by Joy Harjo.


Keynote address, Sept. 15, 2020, 6:30 p.m., via Microsoft Teams

From Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie to Harjo’s American Sunrise:  Words Matter, presented by Dr. Debbie Reese

Joy Harjo writes that in 1830 with “the American soldiers at our backs,” her people left their homelands for Indian Territory. Thirty-nine years later, Charles Ingalls took his family — including his two-year-old daughter, Laura — from their cabin in Wisconsin to Indian Territory. In her lecture, Dr. Debbie Reese talked about the works of these two women and ask that we consider how their words shape what readers know about the place called America and the people that call it home. 

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