NEA Big Read

The Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for Arts (NEA), is a community reading program designed around a single book. Our literary partner Montgomery Community Media (MCM) is among 75 nonprofit organizations to receive a grant to host the NEA Big Read project in our community from April to June 2018.

FOLMC is a lead partner organization with MCPL and formed to put on numerous events and book discussions centered on the debut novel of Ethiopian author Dinaw Mengestu, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. This award-winning book captures immigrant life and will be used as a way to promote discussions relevant to the Montgomery County immigrant experience. Check out the book at MCPL or visit our bookstores to purchase.

Join us for interesting author talks, lively cultural celebrations, and other activities including music and food in a variety of venues throughout the county.

There are many opportunities to get involved now to make this county-wide initiative meaningful for everyone. We are looking for sponsors and donations. To learn how you can provide financial or in-kind support to the Big Read, contact Ari Brooks.

Big Read Literary Series and Salons

Literary Series: Immigrant Experience in Literature
Thursday, March 22, 11 a.m.
The Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, MD

FOLMC will host an NEA Big Read pre-kickoff featuring an author panel on the immigrant experience in literature featuring Eritrean-born Dawit Gebremichael Habte, author of Gratitude in Low Voices, and Ginny Gong, community leader and author of From Ironing Board to Corporate BoardTickets are available at


Kickoff at DiverseCity Showcase
Saturday, April 14, 12-4 p.m.
Lakeforest Mall, 701 Russell Ave, Gaithersburg

Join FOLMC, MCPL, Montgomery Community Media, and Montgomery History as we officially begin our 3 month conversation about The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears and the immigrant experience in Montgomery County at the DiverseCity Showcase, a community celebration of cultures through dance, music, and fashion, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the most diverse city in the United States.


Vinyl Day Record Panel
Red Sea Recordings: The Recording Industry in Eritrea
Saturday, April 21, 11-4 p.m.
Silver Spring Library, 900 Wayne Avenue

As part of Vinyl Day, Legendary recording artist Abdella Abubaker discusses the history of the recording industry in Eritrea. Learn about the rich history of ritual music and how the recording industries are created in a conflict zone and music’s place in revolution.


Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Saturday, May 12, 11 a.m.
FOLMC Bookstore Old Silver Spring Library, 8901 Colesville Road

Join us for an authentic Ethiopian coffee ceremony and hambasha (a ceremonial bread eaten on special occasions) tasting presented in partnership with Blessed Coffee. This NEA Big Read in Montgomery County event is free and open to the first 50 people who register. Register here.

Closing Ceremony
Saturday, June 9, 7:30 p.m.
Silver Spring Library, 900 Wayne Avenue
Dinaw Mengestu will be the keynote speaker at the NEA Big Read Closing Ceremony.



MCPL Book Discussion Group

Check out the MCPL NEA Big Read calendar and see when you can join the discussion here.

Purchase the Book

We have new and used copies available at our bookstores.

Want it delivered straight to your door? Purchase The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears through our Amazon Associates link and FOLMC will receive a portion of the sales.

FOLMC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

 Additional NEA Big Read Books

Click here to see the entire NEA Big Read book list. Visit our bookstores for more NEA Big Read books.