2021-2022 NEA Big Read: Los Angeles

A catalyst for community participation, civic engagement, and a celebration of Los Angeles through art and literature.

Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) is one of 61 organizations nationwide selected to receive a 2021-2022 NEA Big Read grant. DCA was granted the largest award – $20,000, to support reading groups and artmaking projects throughout the City with activities for students, families, as well as panel discussions and workshops for adult education. An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.

For this iteration of the NEA Big Read: Los Angeles, DCA and participating teachers and students selected The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. The work is a personal story with universal themes around family connection, the importance of identity, and the very meaning of home. The story is told with poignant illustrations, exemplifying the symbiotic relationship between language and the visual-arts. The Best We Could Do expands one family’s personal story into a global, historic context. While this illustrated work is a memoir, it is a portrait of the human experience and has universal appeal – desiring a better future for our families while longing for a simpler past.

DCA’s planned program activities seek to advance literacy and are based on a celebration of storytelling and a creative exploration of personal history, and will include high-school reading and discussion groups for young people with select LAUSD schools throughout the City. The Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) will host reading and discussion groups for adult-learners. After-school programming will teach visual arts to students through DCA’s Neighborhood Arts and Cultural Centers. Other planned activities include virtual exhibitions of student’s work; creative writing workshops; film screenings; and panel discussions around the work itself, as well as literary advances within the graphic novel format; and other innovative arts programming to benefit and enrich residents’ quality of life. Public events will run through June, 2022. All events are free and open to the public, and will include diverse activities to engage all age groups and demographics.

The 2021-2022 NEA Big Read: Los Angeles partner organizations include: Sony Pictures Media Arts Program (SPMAP), a DCA program in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment and the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts); the Los Angeles Public Library; and the Los Angeles Unified School District. Additional partners include cultural organizations and individuals such as: artwoxLA; Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory; the Culinary Historians of Southern California; Grand Park (Music Center for Los Angeles County); Libros Schmibros Lending Library; United Voices of Literacy; TeAda Productions, a theater of color organization with a mission to tell stories of immigrants and refugees; and Lalo Alcaraz, film advisor, author, and creator of the syndicated comic, La Cucaracha to amplify the program’s cultural relevance and authenticity and host special events.

For more information about DCA’s Big Read Program in Los Angeles, please email elizabeth.morin@lacity.org.

 

Reading Guides in English and Vietnamese:

 

          

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Upcoming Events

 

The Big Read – Create an Image of Your Story

The Canoga Park Youth Art Center Presents a two-class series via Zoom in which students will develop a single image, similar to a book cover or poster that tells their family’s personal story of arrival to Los Angeles. The project is inspired by Thi Bui’s graphic memoir, The Best We Could Do.

The first thirty students to sign up will receive a free copy of the book, and a package of art supplies (local pick up only) needed for the project.
Ages 12-17
Instructor, Geoff Seeligner

Choose between the following schedules:
Wednesdays, May 4 and 11, 4:00 to 5:30 p.m.
Saturdays May 7 and 14, 12:30 to 2:00 p.m.
Email thebigread.cpya@gmail.com for more information and to register.

Introductory Videos:

 

Story Telling Through Graphic Novels: a Virtual Workshop with Donna Letterese

Join Teaching Artist Donna Letterese in this virtual exploration into the storytelling of Thi Bui’s “The Best We Could Do”. Using pages of the graphic novel, students will learn how each panel works together to tell a story by creating a new narrative.

Thi Bui’s “The Best We Could” is a graphic novel memoir that explores her and her family’s experience immigrating from Vietnam to their new home in America.

Students enrolled in this mini virtual workshop can pick up a free art kit at the BJAC!

Register on Eventbrite! First Day to Register is March 21!

2-week class from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays
Beginning April 9, 2022
*Max. 10 students*
Ages 10 to 13
Online (Zoom)
FREE

Comics and You, Telling Your Story: a Virtual Workshop with Donna Letterese

Turn your life into a comic with Donna Letterese! While reading pages from Thi Bui’s “The Best We Could ”, students will learn how they can share their lives through comics and drawings.

Thi Bui’s The Best We Could is a graphic novel memoir that explores her and her family’s experience immigrating from Vietnam to their new home in America.

Students enrolled in this mini virtual workshop can pick up a free art kit at the BJAC!

Register on Eventbrite! First Day to Register is March 21!

2-week class from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays
Beginning April 23, 2022
*Max. 10 students*
Ages 10 to 13
Online (Zoom)
FREE

Past Events

Book Club Discussion with Wednesday Book Club Westchester Branch Library

Please join the Wednesday Book Club as we discuss this year’s Big Read title “The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir” by Thi Bui on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 at 11:00 a.m.

Please email wstchs@lapl.org for the Zoom link, thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

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