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NEA Big Read: Old Tales Made New, Heroes Made Monsters, Monsters Made Heroines

Tuesday, 7:00 pm EDT May 21, 2024

The Center for Fiction
& Livestreamed

To kick off our 2024 National Endowment of the Arts Big Read initiative, The Center for Fiction welcomes Orange Prize-winning author Madeline Miller to celebrate her brilliant 2018 novel Circe, which masterfully reframes Greek mythology to turn its titular witch into a compelling heroine. Expansive yet intimate, the Red Tentacle Award-winning novel follows Circe across centuries as she witnesses the events of Greek epics—from the birth of the Minotaur to Odysseus’ journey—unfold in front of her as she lives in exile on the island of Aiaia. Joining Miller are Maria Dahvana Headley and Rachel Lyon, two authors who are also masterful retellers of old epic stories. Headley, a New York Times bestselling author and translator, has gained acclaim for her contemporary translation of Beowulf which invokes the mood of urban legends, and The Mere Wife, a dystopian retelling of Beowulf set in 21st-century America. Lyon is the author of Fruit of the Dead, an electric modern reimagining of the myth of Persephone and Demeter. Her debut novel, Self-Portrait with Boy, was a finalist for the 2018 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize.

Headley, Lyon, and Miller will have a rousing conversation about Circe moderated by Nataly Gruender, author of Medusa, an intimate retelling of its infamous titular villain. The panel will discuss the power of retelling ancient stories for new audiences and how it can return humanity to characters that are stripped of it.

This event is the first in a series of free, dynamic, community-wide programming centered around Circe. Free copies of Circe and advanced readers copies of Medusa will be available at the event.

This is a hybrid (in-person/virtual) event: Miller and Headley will join remotely and Lyon and Gruender will be in person at The Center for Fiction.

This event, along with all of our NEA Big Read programming, is free, but space is limited. Guests will be admitted on a first-come, first-seated basis.


In Conversation

  • MadelineMiller_creditNinaSubin-scaled Large

    Madeline Miller

    Madeline Miller

    Madeline Miller is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of two novels: The Song of Achilles, which won the Orange Women’s Prize for Fiction 2012, and Circe, which was short-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019. Her books have been translated into over thirty two languages. Miller holds an MA in Classics from Brown University, studied in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms, and taught Latin, Greek, and Shakespeare to high school students for over a decade.

    Photo Credit: Nina Subin

  • Headley (c) Beowulf Sheehan

    Maria Dahvana Headley

    Maria Dahvana Headley

    Maria Dahvana Headley is a #1 New York Times-bestselling author and editor. Her novels include Magonia, Aerie, and Queen of Kings, and she has also written a memoir, The Year of Yes. With Kat Howard, she is the author of The End of the Sentence, and with Neil Gaiman, she is co-editor of Unnatural Creatures. Her short stories have been shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, and her work has been supported by the MacDowell Colony and by Arte Studio Ginestrelle, where the first draft of The Mere Wife was written. She was raised with a wolf and a pack of sled dogs in the high desert of rural Idaho, and now lives in Brooklyn.

    Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan

  • Rachel Lyon_Photograph by Pieter M. van Hattem (6) (1) Large

    Rachel Lyon

    Rachel Lyon

    Rachel Lyon is the author of Fruit of the Dead and Self-Portrait with Boy, a finalist for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. An editor emerita for Epiphany, she has taught creative writing at the Sackett Street Writers Workshop, Bennington College, and other institutions. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her husband and two young children. Visit

    Photo Credit: Pieter M. van Hattem

  • NG Headshot 10.1 Large

    Nataly Gruender

    Nataly Gruender

    Nataly Gruender was born and raised in Arizona and found an escape from the desert heat through her library card. She studied English, Creative Writing, and Classics at the University of Arizona and is a graduate of the Columbia Publishing Course. Giving in to the siren call of New York, Nataly booked it across the country, and when she’s not working or writing she likes to pet other people’s dogs and spend too much time in used bookstores. Medusa is her debut novel.

    Photo Credit: Kade Alpers Photography