The Department of Cultural Affairs 2020-2021
NEA Big Read Program in Los Angeles

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

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to bring communities together, inspire conversation, and broaden our understanding of our world and ourselves. The NEA presents the Big Read in partnership with Arts Midwest. The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) marks its 13th year as a recipient of a grant to host the NEA Big Read with the 2020-2021 selection of Louise Erdrich’s The Round House, a story about justice told through a 13-year old boy’s investigation and desire for revenge and justice in the brutal attack of his mother.

DCA’s literacy program is guided by the goals of reaching new audiences and continuing to deepen the reader’s experience through thematic activities. Past themes include discrimination; prejudice; gentrification; immigration; gender and personal identity, police and community interaction; racism; censorship; cultural movements; coming of age; war; and familial stories of love and longing relatable to all. Literary genres studied include poetry, short stories, and fiction.

The entire 2020-2021 program will be presented virtually through various online applications and digital formats, with the book’s themes framing all activity. Online activities and events hosted by partner organizations are free and open to the public. Our partners include the Los Angeles Public Library, the Autry Museum of the American West, the Los Angeles Unified School District, California LGBT Arts Alliance, Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory, artworxLA, Tía Chucha’s Cultural Center, CalArts Community Arts Partnership, Libros Schmibros Lending Library, and DCA’s Community Arts Centers, among others.

In November we announced this year’s NEA Big Read Program in LA in conjunction with the City of Los Angeles Native American Heritage Month and with special events offered by the Los Angeles Public Library and the Autry Museum of the American West.

Schools and afterschool programs will read the book, starting in January. Public events inspired by the book will take place April through June 2021. Please continue to check this website for the most updated listing of events.

For more information about DCA’s Big Read Program in Los Angeles, please email



The Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) provides free and easy access to information, ideas, books and technology that enrich, educate and empower every individual in our city’s diverse communities.

Recent events related to the NEA title The Round House:


JC Fremont Branch Library
Tuesday, November 11, 2020 @ 6:00 p.m.


North Hollywood Branch Library
Monday, November 16, 2020 at 2:00 p.m.


Sun Valley Branch Library
Monday, November 16, 2020 at 4:45 p.m.

LAPL will host free related events at Library Branches in the spring, 2021. Please check back in mid March, 2021, for a complete listing of events hosted by the Los Angeles Public Library, or visit the LAPL calendar of events, at



Community and cultural partners will host a variety of virtual interactive and engaging events, including film screenings, panel discussions, culinary presentations, exhibitions, dramatic readings, art workshops, and more, from March through May, 2021.

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, the Autry Museum of the American West welcomed the NEA Big Read at its 13th annual – and first virtual – American Indian Arts Marketplace, on November 14th and 15th.

This two-day event featured salon conversations, films screenings, and a marketplace of artwork, jewelry, and fashion. The Autry’s resident theater company, Native Voices, presented a festival of plays by Native playwrights. Please visit the Autry Museum’s webpage to learn more about the museum’s events, including its spring activities in celebration of the NEA Big Read Program in LA, at the

Community and cultural partners include:

Autry Museum of the American West
Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory
CalArts Community Arts Partnership
California LGBT Arts Alliance
DCA’s Community Arts Centers
Libros Schmibros Lending Library
Los Angeles Public Library
Los Angeles Unified School District
Tía Chucha’s Cultural Center

Please check back in mid March, 2021, for a complete listing of events presented by our community and cultural partners.



Activities at DCA’s Community Art and Cultural Centers include after-school art classes, writing activities, exhibitions, and film screenings, beginning this winter. Please contact the respective center for more information at:

The DCA Community Art and Cultural Centers participating in the NEA Big Read Program in Los Angeles include:

Lincoln Heights Youth Arts Center
Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park
Watts Towers Arts Center
William Grant Still Arts Center

We invite you to enjoy the fifth episode of the Watts Towers Arts Center’s Storytelling Time series, featuring artist Jessica Gudiel, via this link.



Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will read The Round House, by Louise Erdrich, from winter, 2020 through spring, 2021.

School partners are key to the success of DCA’s Big Read Program in Los Angeles and to fulfilling the mission of the NEA Big Read, our nation’s literacy initiative. Since 2008, the program has grown to reach a growing number of students in middle schools and high schools. Books read as part of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) Big Read Program in Los Angeles have included:

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett; The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan; Sun, Stone, and Shadows: 20 Mexican Short Stories; The Thief and The Dogs by Naguib Mahfouz; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri; Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea; Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine; The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu; and Advice from the Lights by Stephanie Burt.

Participating schools receive educational materials for teachers and students, including a Teacher’s Guide, a Reader’s Guide, a Big Read banner, bookmarks, and a copy of this year’s book, for every school participant.

The Big Read title is a part of the curriculum with lessons to further enrich students’ experience reading the book and an understanding of the story’s themes. Each school hosts either a related activity or event inspired by the book, such as a community festival, a film screening, an exhibition of artwork, a public reading of creative writing pieces, culinary components, field trips, art making sessions, and more. The program and all related school events will be presented online.

Schools are part of the larger “Big Read Community” in Los Angeles, and are invited to enjoy a range of public events held throughout the city during the months of April and May, 2021.

The Big Read in Schools Program promotes intra-cultural exchange, celebrates cultural connections, and fosters civic engagement. It also places an emphasis on students as catalysts for creativity and interaction.


DCA’s Big Read Program in Los Angeles 2020-2021 partner schools include:

Franklin High School
Lincoln High School
Marshall High School
Mendez High School
Sylmar Charter High School – Sylmar Biotech
Verdugo Hills High School
Whitman High School


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