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NEA Big Read

Schedule of Programs

Programming related to the NEA Big Read will take place from September 2020 through April 2021. This schedule will be updated regularly as programs are planned. All information listed is subject to change.


Book Discussion: An American Sunrise

Jan. 22, 2021, 6 p.m.
Virtual discussion via Zoom
Hosted by the Mattoon Public Library

The Mattoon Public Library will host a discussion of the NEA Big Read selection "An American Sunrise," by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. Copies of the book are available at the Mattoon library or at Booth Library on the campus of Eastern Illinois University. This program is free and open to the public.

To participate or for more information, contact Stacy Fetters at the Mattoon library at 217-234-1720.


Joy Harjo

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

To participate, click here

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.

Free and open to the public

Join 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 logo
hold the position. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo is an internationally known award-winning poet, writer, performer, and saxophone player of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation.

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.



Lions in Winter Presents: An Evening with Joan Kane

Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, 5-7 p.m., virtual event
Part of the Lions in Winter festival sponsored by the EIU Department of English
The EIU English Department will present this program, part of this year's series of virtual Lions in Winter events: 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. Registration is required. The reading will begin at 5 p.m., followed by the craft talk. Visit for more information.
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.

Poetry and Movement

Saturdays, 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 will join 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 participate in a gentle movement exercise led by facilitators and inspired by the poem. Each workshop will have the same structure but feature different content, so all are invited to join all three. These programs are free and open to all, but participants must RSVP on Eventbrite to receive Zoom login information. For information contact the Tarble Arts Center at 217-581-2787 or email

Discussion/workshoCrazy Brave book coverp: The Knowing was Always Right

Thursday, April 22, 2021, 6-7:30 p.m., virtual event
Hosted by Charlotte England, PhD, and Daiva Markelis, PhD
Sponsored by the Coles County Arts Council and Academy of Lifelong Learning

"In the end, we must each tend to our own gulfs of sadness," Joy Harjo writes in her inspiring, poetic, and deeply emotional memoir, "Crazy Brave."
Others can assist us, but we must find the path to self-knowledge ourselves, with art, poetry, memoir, music and nature as our guides. This discussion/workshop will look 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 will free write on a childhood memory and then will experiment with adding poetry, dreams, song lyrics, etc., in order to enrich their memoir.
This program is free and open to the public. Registration is required by April 20. For information, visit

Past programming

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. 2, 2020, 5 p.m., via Zoom

The Coles County LifeSpan Center hosted a virtual book club using the Zoom meeting app on Dec. 2. This is a new book club for the center, and the first book they chose to discuss was "An American Sunrise," by Joy Harjo.


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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