Big Read Lakeshore announces book for 2021 program

HOLLAND – The NEA Big Read Lakeshore will enter new territory this year. For the first time in eight years, Hope College’s program will focus on a book of poetry for its 2021 programming.

This year’s title, announced Wednesday, June 9, is “An American Sunrise,” a collection of poems by award-winning poet Joy Harjo. The collection “crosses the homeland from which its ancestors were uprooted in 1830 following the Indian Removal Act”.

Through the poems, Harjo, a member of the Muskogee (Creek) Nation, celebrates his ancestors and reminds the reader to remember the past.

“Although Big Read has not yet focused on poetry, I am delighted that the Lakeshore is immersed in the beautiful verses of Joy Harjo and the story they tell,” said Deborah Van Duinen, Director of Big Read and Little Read and associate. English teacher in Hope.

“Harjo’s poems encourage us to reflect on the stories that are told and those that are silenced, and why we need to learn more about history and culture. They also remind us of the ways in which reading poetry can lead to greater empathy and understanding. “

Dr. Deborah Van Duinen is Associate Professor of English Language Education at Hope College and Director of the NEA Big Read Lakeshore and Little Read Lakeshore Programs at Hope College.

Harjo has received several awards for his writing and twice visited Hope College as part of the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers series in 1993 and 2012.

The Little Read Lakeshore event for kids will feature the “Fry Bread” picture book, written by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. The book is a representation of a modern Native American family, recounted in verse, which “captures the complex Native American identity and shares the tradition.”

The Big Read Lakeshore is made possible by a $ 20,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. The Little Read Lakeshore is supported by a $ 15,000 grant from Michigan Humanities.

Student artwork made in response to Big Read Lakeshore 2019 on display at Holland Armory.  The 2021 Big Read Lakeshore will begin this fall with "An american sunrise" as the featured book.

“I am delighted to report that we have again received grants from NEA and NEH this year. As our program has grown over the past eight years, each year I am more excited for our community to participate, ”said Van Duinen. “Each year we learn a lot by listening to and learning from each other while discovering important stories together. “

The Big Read Lakeshore and Little Read Lakeshore programs are presented in collaboration with dozens of community partners and use a specific book as a springboard for discussion and learning. Over 12,000 people participated last year, which took place mostly in a virtual format.

Details of the event will be released in August and will feature the authors of both books. For more information and updates, visit

– Contact reporter Mitchell Boatman at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @SentinelMitch.

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