Troy University awarded National Endowment for the Arts 'Big Read' grant

Posted: Wednesday, 11 May 2016

MONTGOMERY - Troy University has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant to host "The Big Read," a program designed to revitalize the role of reading in American culture.

Managed by Arts Midwest, "The Big Read" program exposes citizens to great works of literature and encourages them to read for pleasure and enrichment. The grants enable selected organizations to promote and carry out community-based reading programs around a single book, featuring activities such as read-a-thons, book discussions, lectures, movie screenings and performing arts events.

Troy University, one of 77 organizations nationally to be awarded an NEA Big Read grant, will organize activities around the book, "Silver Sparrow," by Tayari Jones.

Troy University Montgomery's Rosa Parks Library will partner with the City of Montgomery, Trenholm State Community College, the Julia Tutwiler Women's Prison, The Phoenix, the Montgomery City-County Public Libraries and the Alabama Book Festival to host a series of events in March and April of 2017.

"The Big Read grant is a tremendous opportunity for our Montgomery Campus, but also for all of the citizens of Montgomery," said Dr. Christopher Shaffer, dean of library services at Troy University. "This grant provides all of us the opportunity to have the shared experience of reading and reflecting on a fascinating piece of literature. It is such a great way for a large number of people to step back from the frenetic world in which we live, and without the obstacle of technology, read a unique book, reflect on it, and then interact with each other. It is in moments like these that members of a community can forge stronger ties."

The Rosa Parks Library and Museum will hold a kickoff celebration featuring a keynote speaker and the photography exhibition, "Her Word as Witness: Women Writers of the African Diaspora," by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, which celebrates contemporary African-American authors. Barrayn's work has been exhibited internationally and has been published in the Smithsonian-produced anthology, "BLACK: A Celebration of Culture," edited by photography historian and professor, Dr. Deborah Willis of New York University.

Other events will include discussions and film screenings by Troy University faculty members dealing with themes discussed in the book. The events will culminate with a visit to the Rosa Parks Library and Museum by the author, Tayari Jones, to talk about her book and also participate in the 2017 Alabama Book Festival.

Published in 2011 by Algonquin Books, "Silver Sparrow" was chosen by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association as an Honor Book and was nominated for both the NAACP Image Award and the 2013 Dublin International Literary Award.

Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon's two families – the public one and the secret one – and the two teenage girls caught in the middle by the man's deception.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Jones now serves as an associate professor in the Master of Fine Arts program at Rutgers University, where she was awarded with a Board of Trustees Award for Scholarly Excellence, the Presidential Fellowship for Teaching Excellence and a Leader in Faculty Diversity Award. She spent the 2011-2012 academic year at Harvard University as a Radcliffe Institute Fellow, researching her forthcoming novel, "Dear History." She also has published the award-winning novels "Leaving Atlanta" (2002) and "The Untelling" (2005).