NEA Big Read Brings Together Book Clubs, Stories, and Writers in Central Arkansas

Little Rock, AR – The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) welcomes critically acclaimed author Tommy Orange as part of its 2024 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read celebration. The Big Read series of events kick off March 8 and conclude in May, with Orange scheduled to appear at CALS Ron Robinson Theater, 100 River Market Ave., on May 16 at 6:30 p.m. Last year, CALS was awarded an NEA Big Read Grant for $20,000 and selected Orange’s novel There There from the short list of pre-approved books for 2024. Partners for the program include Sequoyah National Research Center, Historic Arkansas Museum, and the American Indian Center of Arkansas.

There There is a wondrous and shattering award-winning novel that follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Orange’s follow up book, Wandering Stars, hits stores this week. Wandering Stars is a novel about epigenetic and generational trauma that has the force and vision of a modern epic. It is an exceptionally powerful new book from one of the most exciting writers at work today, soaring as confirmation of the author’s monumental gifts.

Orange will discuss There There and Wandering Stars in the Big Read’s final public program, as part of the CALS Speaker Series honoring Rabbi Ira Sanders. The program will be moderated by Andrea L. Rogers, author of Man Made Monsters. A thousand copies of There There and Wandering Stars (500 each) were purchased with the grant; copies of Wandering Stars are available and can be requested by emailing while supplies last.

CALS Big Read efforts will include more than 30 events, including discussions with more than 20 book clubs and programs at most branches. The kick-off event is on March 8 at 6 p.m. at the Historic Arkansas Museum, 200 E 3rd St., and includes tours of their We Walk In Two Worlds exhibition. Additional events include a creative writing workshop and a lecture by Dr. Dan Littlefield, Sequoyah National Research Center.

All Big Read events will be free and open to the public. To find a full list of events, and to register for the author talk with Tommy Orange, visit Find the headshot for Tommy Orange here (photo credit Elena Seibert), book covers here and here.

About NEA Big Read
NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. El Proyecto NEA Big Read es una iniciativa del National Endowment for the Arts (el Fondo Nacional para las Artes de Estados Unidos) en cooperacion con Arts Midwest. The goal of this program is to inspire meaningful conversations, celebrate local creativity, elevate a wide variety of voices and perspectives, and build stronger connections in each community. Programming for the 2024-2025 grant cycle must center around the theme WHERE WE LIVE.

About Tommy Orange
Tommy Orange is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel There There, a multigenerational, relentlessly paced story about a side of America few of us have ever seen: the lives of urban Native Americans. There There was one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year, and won the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize and the Pen/Hemingway Award. There There was also longlisted for the National Book Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His next novel Wandering Stars, was released today (February 27, 2024). Orange graduated from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts; he was a 2014 MacDowell Fellow and a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. He was born and raised in Oakland, California.