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Big Read Seguin Inspires Community Discussions

In Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, author Sarah Smarsh shares the story of America’s rural poor and a generational cycle of poverty and social class. Just as the book provides a glimpse into real lives on a Kansas farmland, initiatives like the National Endowment for the Art’s (NEA) Big Read provides the power of a shared reading experience.

As part of a project with the Seguin Public Library and Teatro De Artes De Juan Seguin, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has awarded TLU an $11,000 grant to lead the Big Read Seguin 2022. The Big Read Program broadens the understanding of the world, neighbors, and ourselves through books. Showcasing a diverse range of themes, voices, and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire meaningful conversations, artistic responses, and new discoveries and connections in each community.

Led by University Librarian Dan Flores, the NEA Big Read Seguin features book titles Heartland by Sarah Smarsh, Spare Parts/Inventores by Josh Davis, and Dreamers/Soñadores by Yuyi Morales. All three books relate incredible stories of the resilience of the human spirit.

The NEA Big Read Seguin partners plan to distribute 500 copies of Heartland, 100 copies of Spare Parts / Inventores, and 100 copies of Dreamers/Soñadores via the Blumberg Memorial Library, Pecantown Books & Brews, Seguin Public Library, and Teatro De Artes De Juan Seguin. Other community participants include Emanuel Lutheran Church, La Trinidad United Methodist Church, Seguin Art League, Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church, and Wesley Harper United Methodist Church. The public is invited to contact these organizations to join a reading group or to obtain free books while supplies last.

NEA Big Read Seguin kicks off their program on Wednesday, September 28, at TLU and will continue to host various cultural events and art exhibits, culminating with a celebratory finale at the Central Park Gazebo on Saturday, November 12, marking the program’s success and impact.

Flores says both book selections resonate with many Seguin residents. Families supported by blue collar jobs or day laborers are the prime audience for this initiative.

“In Heartland, author Sarah Smarsh serves up a feast of unabashedly honest recollections of her personal struggle for the American dream,” he said. “Readers will find themselves empathizing with her painful experiences of being trapped in a social-economic system seemingly engineered against the working poor. In Joshua Davis’ Spare Parts, readers will encounter the same hunger in the lives of four undocumented teenage men. With the help of an extraordinary high school teacher, they dared to rise above aching poverty and marginalization to discover the richness of the human spirit within them. For many Seguinites, their challenges are only too familiar.”

When groups get together for in-person community readings, Flores says a space opens for genuine dialogue and relational learning.

“I realize this may challenge our contemporary expectation of reading silently in libraries,” he said. “However, I believe the Big Read empowers us to interrupt our love affair with individualism and, at least for the program’s duration, favor the broader community in which we live.”

The Seguin Public Library and Teatro De Artes De Juan Seguin both have strong institutional and intergenerational family support.

“The NEA Big Read gives us all an opportunity to come together as a united community to celebrate the joy of reading and engage in meaningful dialogue," Flores said. "Certainly, increasing our community literacy is a goal. I am hopeful this will also be a creative space for healing our divisions and for building a prosperous future for all of Seguin.”

Seguin Big Read Events

Join a reading group and pick up your Big Read Seguin Passport at any of our community partners’ locations. Bring your stamped passports to the Big Read Seguin Finale for special recognition.

La Marcha: Stories of Resilience in the 1966 Texas Farm Workers' March
September 28 from 10:45 A.M - 12:30 P.M.
Presented by Bishop Joel N. Martinez, retired UMC, and Rebecca Flores, retired president of Texas UFW at The Chapel of the Abiding Presence.

La Marcha: Stories of Resilience in the 1966 Texas Farm Workers' March
September 28 from 6:30 - 7: 30 P.M.
Presented by Bishop Joel N. Martinez, retired UMC, and Rebecca Flores, retired president of Texas United Farm Workers at the Seguin Public Library. Moderated by Dr. Yvonne M. De La Rosa, Ph.D., executive director, Teatro De Artes De Juan Seguin. Ballet Folklorico performances will be presented.

Bilingual Story Time: Dreamers/ Sonadores by Yuyi Morales
October 1 at 12:30 PM at the Seguin Public Library

NEA Big Read / Pecan Fest Book to Movie Spare Parts by Josh Davis
October 1 at 1 PM at the Seguin Public Library

Una Tardeada con Ballet Folklórico De La Rosa
October 1 at 1 PM at the Seguin Public Library

Meet and Greet with author Rev. Dr. David Bachelor
October 6 from 5 - 6 PM at Pecantown Books & Brews
Meet Rev. Dr. David Bachelor, author of MMXX: A Year Like No Other

Book Drop Podcast Presents: The Hillbilly and The Heartland
October 6 from 6:30 - 8 PM
Presented by Rev. Dr. David Bachelor with host Dr. Dan Flores in Blumberg Memorial Library

Book Club: Heartland by Sarah Smarsh
October 11 from 6 - 7 PM

Book Club: Heartland by Sarah Smarsh
October 25 from 6 - 7 PM
Located in historic downtown Seguin, Pecantown Books and Brews exists to champion independence, foster community, and elicit conversation.

The Wilcox Ranch with Lola Wilcox Moore
October 26 from 1 - 2:30 PM
Virtual Presentation by Lola Wilcox Moore in Wupperman Little Theatre

Big Read Seguin & Pecan Fest Robotics Showcase 
October 29 from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM at the Seguin Public Library
The Seguin Public Library, Seguin ISD Robotics, and other community organizations will showcase various projects in robotics. This is a drop-in event where guests are invited to stop by as they are able.

Book Club: Heartland by Sarah Smarsh
November 8 from 6 - 7 PM
Located in historic downtown Seguin, Pecantown Books and Brews exists to champion independence, foster community, and elicit conversation.

Big Read Seguin Finale
November 12 from 11:30 AM - 1:30 P.M.
A community read and live performances at the Central Park Gazebo in downtown Seguin

About the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read

The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read, a partnership with Arts Midwest, broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,700 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $24 million to organizations nationwide. In addition, NEA Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past 16 years, grantees have leveraged more than $56 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 5.9 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, over 97,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and over 40,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible.