NEA Big Read

The Urbana Free Library is participating in the NEA Big Read featuring Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, The Namesake - a moving story about two generations of a Bengali-American family. 

From January 27 - March 6 there are performances, books discussions, films, and educational programs taking place at The Urbana Free Library, as well as Spurlock Museum, The Art Theater, Champaign Public Library, and on the UI campus. 

Stop by the Library to get a free copy of the book (beginning on January 17) and then come to some of the special events.  See below for Urbana Free Library program highlights.

For a list of events throughout Champaign-Urbana, go to

NEA Big Read Cultural Celebration!
Saturday, February 2 • 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Celebrate the cultures of India at this all ages event!  Dance performance, art activities, foods and spices of India, and a display of Indian clothing and artifacts.

The Namesake: More than a Book Discussion!
Tuesdays • 7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Conversation and a chance to learn more from special guests.  All are welcome to join these informal conversations.   No need to have read the book in advance.

  • Food, Clothing, and Ritual • February 12
    Sample some of the unique foods and spices of India and join the conversation about food, clothing, and ritual in Bengali culture and in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.
  • Love, Sex, and Marriage • February 19
    Let’s talk about love, sex, and marriage in The Namesake and beyond. From arranged marriage to one night stands, we’ll explore traditions and the values of the younger generation.
  • What’s in a Name? • February 26
    We’ll talk about how names shape identity in The Namesake and in the lives of immigrant families. If you have a story about your own family and the significance of names, we would love to hear it.

Bengali Arts & Crafts for Teens at Teen Open Lab
3:30 - 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday, February 19 | Wednesday, February 20 | Thursday, February 21

This week teens are invited to get a henna tattoo, browse comic books from India, or try making Bengali crafts. Bring a friend and join us!

Speaking from the Heart: Women & Immigration in Our Community
Wednesday, February 20 • 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Women leave their home countries for many reasons. They may be seeking economic opportunity, fleeing violence, or escaping persecution. What are the challenges and issues that women face as immigrants or refugees? Come hear women from our community reflect on their experiences.

Bengali Crafts and Folktales for Children
Saturday, February 23 • 4:00 - 4:45 p.m.
Megan's Reading Room (Children's Area)

Families are invited to come hear fun and mysterious Bengali folktales and stories. Afterwards there will be a chance to make a craft and enjoy a snack.

Growing Up in Two Worlds: Teens Speak Out about Immigration
Wednesday, March 6 • 7:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Lewis Auditorium (Ground Floor)

Many teens in our community come from immigrant or refugees families. And some teens have even come on their own from another country. What do these young people have to say about their experiences? Young people from our community - from a variety of backgrounds - will talk about their experiences.


The NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.