National Endowment for the Arts Announces New Additions to the Big Read library

Guidelines for 2016-2017 Big Read Applicants Now Available
book covers for Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones and In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones and In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner will join the NEA Big Read library.

Washington, DC— Today, the National Endowment for the Arts announced that two contemporary novels written by female writers will join the Big Read librarySilver Sparrow by Tayari Jones and In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. These novels will be available for organizations hosting a 2016-2017 Big Read project and will further the National Endowment for the Arts’ commitment to expanding the Big Read library by including diverse voices and stories. Application guidelines for 2016-2017 Big Read grants are now available. The deadline is Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at 4:00pm CST.

“The National Endowment for the Arts is pleased to continue providing new selections for NEA Big Read grantees to share with their communities,” said NEA Director of Literature Amy Stolls. “I look forward to seeing the innovative ways organizations use Tayari Jones and Vaddey Ratner’s incredible storytelling to inspire meaningful conversations, expand their reach in their communities, and draw out the rich worlds of these novels.”

The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Managed by Arts Midwest, this initiative offers grants to support innovative community reading programs designed around a single book or poet.

In Tayari Jones’ Silver Sparrow, two teenage girls living in 1980s Atlanta lead very different lives, except for one thing: they share a father. One mother and daughter know of their father's second family. What happens when the other mother and daughter find out? In Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, Raami is only seven when the Khmer Rouge comes to power in Cambodia and she is swept from an idyllic childhood into four years of hardship. Through it all, Raami relies on the stories and poems her beloved father told her to keep hope alive. For more information about these new additions to the Big Read library, read today’s Art Works blog post by Eleanor Billington, program manager for the Big Read.

The Big Read supports organizations across the country in developing community-wide programs that encourage reading and the participation of diverse audiences. Organizations selected to participate in the Big Read receive a grant, access to online training resources and opportunities, digital guides, and promotional materials designed to support widespread community involvement.

Community partnerships, especially with libraries, are key to the Big Read. Applicant organizations must partner with a library (if the applicant itself is not a library). Partnerships are encouraged with community organizations such as bookstores, museums, middle and high schools, arts organizations, local businesses, community service organizations, community centers, youth groups, senior centers, correctional institutions, community colleges, universities, social service organizations, and military installations. For more information and to apply for a Big Read grant, visit

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts and the agency is celebrating this milestone with events and activities through September 2016. Go to the 50th section at to enjoy art stories from around the nation, peruse the Facts & Figures section, and check out the anniversary timeline.

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Liz Auclair,, 202-682-5744