NEA Big Read Program Kicks Off at MSU March 15

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read kicks off its month-long programming in the Greater Lansing/Mid-Michigan area on Thursday, March 15, at 7 p.m. in the Green Room of MSU’s Main Library with a screening of What Happens to a Dream Deferred. This short film highlights a day in the life of two DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients, José Badillo-Carlos and Osvaldo Sandoval, both graduate students at Michigan State University, after the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the DACA program.

Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion with both Badillo-Carlos and Sandoval, as well as Veronica Thronson, Director of the MSU Immigration Law Clinic.

The NEA Big Read is a national invitation to read together. From the NEA list of titles, MSU organizers selected Luís Alberto Urrea’s Into the Beautiful North, a story about 19-year-old Nayeli and her friends, who journey from a small village in Sinaloa, Mexico, to search for the husbands, fathers, and brothers from their community who left to find work in the United States. 

flyer advertising big read, shows cover of book, into the beautiful north
Big Read flyer

“The subject of immigration is compelling, especially at the current moment,” said Michigan State University Associate Professor of English Sheila Contreras, who, in partnership with Capital Area District Libraries, was awarded a $14,000 grant to host the NEA Big Read in the Greater Lansing/Mid-Michigan area. “Into the Beautiful North humanizes those who travel at great risk, forced by the realities of scarce resources and the dangers of daily life to leave their homes. Urrea gathers an unexpected group of sojourners in a humorous and playful tale that also exposes hardships created by the disruption of family unity across an entire community.”

An initiative of the NEA in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read aims to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Urrea’s novel will introduce many mid-Michigan readers to Chicano/Mexican-American literature and to underrepresented perspectives on migration from Mexico to the United States.

Into the Beautiful North humanizes those who travel at great risk, forced by the realities of scarce resources and the dangers of daily life to leave their homes.

Free copies of Into the Beautiful North will be available at the kick-off event, as well as at the following locations, while supplies last: 

Other Events Planned

Several book discussions and film screenings also are planned throughout the month. For more information, visit

The closing event, scheduled for Wednesday, April 18, at 7 p.m., will bring Urrea to Lansing for a reading and Q&A at the Robin Theatre, 1105 South Washington Ave.

NEA Big Read Grant

Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,400 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $19 million in grants to organizations nationwide. In addition, Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past 11 years, grantees have leveraged more than $42 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 4.8 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, approximately 79,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and 37,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible.

Michigan State University was one of 75 nonprofit organizations across the country to receive this year’s NEA Big Read grant. Funds allow for the purchase of books for community readers.

MSU is partnering with Capital Area District Libraries, the Hispanic/Latino Commission of Michigan, Allen Neighborhood Center, and the Peace Education Center to bring the Big Read to Mid-Michigan.