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The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in partnership with Arts Midwest, announced a
matching grant of $20,000 to the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County for NEA
Big Read programming in 2025. The goal of the NEA Big Read is to inspire meaningful
conversations, celebrate local creativity, elevate a wide variety of voices and perspectives, and
build stronger connections in communities through the shared experience of reading.
2025 NEA Big Read programming focuses on the theme: Where We Live. Grant funds will
support a book giveaway and other programs celebrating Charles Yu’s bestselling novel, Interior
Chinatown. Yu’s book won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2020. The novel follows
Willis Wu, a struggling actor pursuing lead roles that he thinks will give him agency and
respect— a quest that often exposes him to humiliation and indignity instead of fame and
fortune. Library Director John K. Chidester says,“We are so pleased that the National
Endowment for the Arts has chosen to favor us, once again, with a generous grant to support our
NEA Big Read program. Charles Yu’s novel, Interior Chinatown is a marvelous and wickedly
satiric glimpse into the little-known corners of Asian American life and culture that will likely be
a real eye-opener for Knox County readers.”
The Library’s NEA Big Read program begins in February 2025 and continues through May.
NEA Big Read Proposed Activities
● A county-wide book giveaway of Interior: Chinatown
● Additional book giveaways of children’s books, YA novels, and companion texts by
Asian-American authors
● A special episode of the Library’s award-winning What Are You Reading? Podcast

● An 8-week Teen MakerSpace arts and crafts series inspired by Interior Chinatown
● Children’s storytimes at The Annex
● Creative writing workshops at the Brown Family Environmental Center led by Ira
Sukrungruang, Cindy Ok, Jon Tazewell, and Hao Zhou
● Two ekphrastic writing sessions at The Gund Gallery
● Movement workshops exploring Chinese dance and the theme “Where We Live”
● Interactive programs in authentic Chinese culinary and martial arts
● Performances by Jingwei Lion Dance Association of Columbus
“In addition to these exciting programs, we’re working on bringing Charles Yu to Knox
Memorial Theater this spring, for a reading and conversation with NEA Big Read Chair Ira
Sukrungruang,” says Jamie Lyn Smith-Fletcher, Deputy Director of Development, Special
Projects and Writing.
More About the NEA Big Read
The Library is one of only two NEA Big Read grantees in Ohio, and this is the second time the
local library has been selected for this prestigious, highly competitive award. The Library’s NEA
Big Read community partners include Mount Vernon Arts Consortium, The Gund at Kenyon
College, The Brown Family Environmental Center, Kenyon College Office for Community
Partnerships, The Kenyon Review Associates Program, The Annex: An Extension of the Gund
Experience, and the Kenyon Department of Dance, Drama, and Film.
“With every page turned, the NEA Big Read fosters understanding, empathy and
connection,”says Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson, Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts.
“Through a shared reading experience, our NEA Big Read grantees will explore their collective
story and sense of place, cultivating a deeper appreciation for the diverse narratives that make up
our beautiful and complex communities.” Visit for more information about
the NEA Big Read. Organizations interested in applying for an NEA Big Read grant in the future
should visit Arts Midwest’s website for more information; guidelines will be released in the Fall.
For more information about the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County’s 2025 NEA
Big Read program, please visit, email or call (740) 392-
2665 ext. 259.

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