NEA Big Read Books & Speakers 2024


The NEA Big Read supports community-wide reading programs around a single NEA Big Read book. We are proud to represent PRHSB speakers and authors whose works have been chosen by NEA Big Read for inclusion in their programming. Applications are open, and now is the perfect time to select the next book to share with your community. 

NEW THIS YEAR: Programming during the current program cycle will focus on the theme Where We Live. As part of this new overarching theme, applicants can explore some of the following sub-themes: The Environment, The People, Industry and Culture, History, and Alternate Realities. Find out more about the themes and application guidelines here

Upcoming Deadlines

Applications are now open for grants to support NEA Big Read projects between September 2024 and June 2025. The Intent to Apply deadline is Wednesday, January 10, 2024. Visit Arts Midwest’s website for complete grant guidelines and to apply.

Edwidge Danticat

MacArthur Fellow and critically acclaimed Haitian-American writer

Edwidge Danticat NEA Big Read

“It’s not easy to start over in a new place,’ he said. ‘Exile is not for everyone. Someone has to stay behind, to receive the letters and greet family members when they come back.”
Brother, I’m Dying

A powerful and widely celebrated voice in contemporary literature, Haitian-American bestselling author Edwidge Danticat has written fifteen award-winning books, including Brother, I’m Dying, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography and a National Book Award Finalist. Danticat’s profound connection to her native Haiti and the Haitian community in the United States has not only informed her writing, but has made her a passionate advocate for racial and immigration justice.

Yaa Gyasi

Bestselling author of Homegoing and Transcendent Kingdom

Yaa Gyasi NEA Big Read

“No one forgets that they were once captive, even if they are now free.” — Homegoing

Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is a sweeping epic that moves through histories and geographies, illuminating the origins of slavery, racism, and Black American identity. Gyasi captivates audiences with events that explore contemporary craft, cultural identity, and the complex racial landscape of America’s past and present.

Emily St. John Mandel

Author of 2014 National Book Award finalist Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel NEA Big Read

“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.” — Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Station Eleven, a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award. Mandel is a thoughtful and poised speaker, capturing audiences with thoughtful reflections on writing. She is popular with colleges and universities, libraries, and common reading programs.

Dinaw Mengestu

Named one of The New Yorker “20 Under 40” writers to watch and author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Dinaw Mengestu

“It’s hard sometimes to remember why we do anything in the first place. It’s nice to think there’s a purpose, or even a real decision that turns everything in one direction, but that’s not always true, is it? We just fall into our lives.” — The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Dinaw Mengestu is an Ethiopian-American novelist who has garnered widespread critical acclaim for his intimate depictions of the immigrant experience in America. The author of three novels, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, How to Read the Air, and All Our Names, Mengestu has received numerous awards, including the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” Award. A thoughful speaker, Mengestu speaks to library and university audiences about the immigrant experience, post-colonial African conflicts, and his writing process.

Celeste Ng

Author of the New York Times bestseller Everything I Never Told You

Celeste Ng NEA Big Read

“Before that she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.” — Everything I Never Told You

Celeste Ng’s New York Times bestselling novel, Everything I Never Told You is a profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing. The book graced numerous “Best of 2014” lists and earned top honors on Amazon as their Best Book of the Year. In her lectures, Ng addresses how Asian-Americans fit into conversations about race, how people identify, and her own path to becoming a writer.

Tommy Orange

Bestselling novelist and author of There There

Tommy Orange NEA Big Read

“We are the memories we don’t remember, which live in us, which we feel, which make us sing and dance and pray the way we do, feelings from memories that flare and bloom unexpectedly in our lives like blood through a blanket from a wound made by a bullet fired by a man shooting us in the back for our hair, for our heads, for a bounty, or just to get rid of us.” — There There

Tommy Orange is the author of Pulitzer Prize finalist There There, a multi-generational, relentlessly paced story that introduces readers to a side of America few of us have ever seen: the lives of urban Native Americans. In dynamic and frank in-conversation programs, Orange talks about his craft and writing process, and Native American history and culture.

Charles Yu

National Book Award-winning author of Interior Chinatown

Charles Yu NEA Big Read

“Working your way up the system doesn’t mean you beat the system. It strengthens it. It’s what the system depends on.” — Interior Chinatown

Charles Yu is the author of the National Book Award winner Interior Chinatown, a genre-bending masterpiece that explores the confining stereotypes of Asian Americans in American culture. Yu speaks to audiences of all kinds about the Asian-American experience, representation and stereotypes in film and television, and the unique power of science fiction to address the human condition.

Contact us for more information about booking a speaker for your next event.