The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has awarded TLU an $11,000 grant to lead the first-ever Big Read Seguin. According to the NEA, The Big Read program broadens our understanding of our world, our neighbors, and ourselves through books. Showcasing a diverse range of themes, voices, and perspectives, the project aims to inspire meaningful conversations, artistic responses, and new discoveries and connections in each community. TLU is just one of only 62 nonprofits chosen nationwide for this highly competitive NEA award.
Led by University Librarian Dan Flores and community partners at the Seguin Public Library and Teatro de Artes de Juan Seguin, the group has chosen two pieces of nonfiction for their selected readings. They believe both will resonate with working class adults and high school students. Based in Kansas, Sarah Smarsh’s Heartland is the story of America’s rural poor and a generational cycle of poverty and social class, while Joshua Davis’ Spare Parts is the true story of four undocumented teens who won NASA’s Marine Advanced Technology Education Robotics Competition.
Through the initiative, 500 copies of Heartland will be distributed by local churches, civic clubs, and small businesses, and 100 copies of Spare Parts will be distributed by the Seguin Public Library. Reading groups will also be organized, as well as cultural events and art exhibits showcasing themes found in both books.
Flores says the university is the center of higher education in Seguin, and he and his highly valued partners will work together to makes this a memorable community-building experience.
“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.”
In total, the NEA is investing $1,071,140 to support programming centered around one of 15 different contemporary books, with the aim of inspiring meaningful conversations, artistic responses, and new discoveries and connections in participating communities.
“It’s inspiring to see how NEA Big Read grantees utilize these books as launchpads for their own programming,” said Maria Rosario Jackson, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. “This often creates opportunities for community conversations, new partnerships, and encourages participants to incorporate art into their daily lives.”
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.