Skip to Content

NEA Big Read 2022

NEA Big Read: Our Friend Toni: Farah Jasmine Griffin and Erroll McDonald on Toni Morrison's Legacy


Wednesday, 7:00 pm EDT May 18, 2022

The Center for Fiction*
& Online via Zoom

It has been almost three years since the world lost the trailblazing, intrepid writer and scholar, Toni Morrison. Join Farah Jasmine Griffin and Erroll McDonald, friends, colleagues, and admirers of hers, as they gather on our stage to share memories of Morrison and her work and reflect on her enormous legacy. This event is part of our NEA BigRead of Beloved. This event, along with all of our NEA BigRead programming, is free, but space is limited. Reserve your seat now.

The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read—a partnership with Arts Midwest—broadens our understanding of our world, our neighbors, and ourselves through the power of a shared reading experience. Showcasing a diverse range of themes, voices, and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire meaningful conversations, artistic responses, and new discoveries and connections in each community.

*Proof of vaccination is required to attend this event in person. Mask wearing is also required throughout the building. Accepted vaccination proofs include:

  • CDC vaccination card (or an image of it)
  • Excelsior Pass or Excelsior Pass Plus (or a printout of it)
  • A record of vaccination from the healthcare provider who administered your vaccine

Anyone 5 and older is required to show proof of two vaccine doses or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Anyone 18 and older must also present a government issued photo ID.

If you remain unvaccinated because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, please contact us at for assistance or to request a reasonable accommodation.


In Conversation

  • IMG_7012 - Claire Fennell

    Farah Jasmine Griffin

    Farah Jasmine Griffin

    Farah Jasmine Griffin is the inaugural Chair of the African American and African Diaspora Studies Department at Columbia University, where she also serves as the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature. Professor Griffin received her B.A. from Harvard and her Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale. She is the author or editor of eight books including Who Set You Flowin?: The African American Migration Narrative (Oxford, 1995), If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday (Free Press, 2001), and Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II (Basic Books, 2013). Griffin collaborated with composer, pianist, Geri Allen and director, actor S. Epatha Merkerson on two theatrical projects, for which she wrote the book: The first, Geri Allen and Friends Celebrate the Great Jazz Women of the Apollo, with LizzWright, Dianne Reeves, Teri Lyne Carrington and others, premiered on the main stage of the Apollo Theater in May of 2013. The second, A Conversation with Mary Lou featuring vocalist Carmen Lundy, premiered at Harlem Stage in March 2014 and was performed at The John F. Kennedy Center in May of 2016. Her most book, Read Until You Understand: The Profound Wisdom of Black Life and Literature was published by W.W. Norton in September, 2021. Griffin is a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow and Mellon Foundation Fellow in Residence.

  • Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan

    Erroll McDonald

    Erroll McDonald

    Erroll McDonald is a Vice President, Executive Editor in the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group of Penguin Random House. Among the authors he has edited and published are: James Baldwin, Romare Bearden, Italo Calvino, Sandra Cisneros, Stanley Crouch, Friedrich Durenmatt, Marjorie Garber, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Michael R. Gordon, Alan Hollinghurst, Simon Johnson, Kazuo Ishiguro, Margo Jefferson, Randall Kennedy, Klaus Kinski, Laila Lalami, Fran Lebowitz, Arthur Levitt, Daniel E. Lieberman, David Malouf, Wangari Matthai, Timothy Mo, Toni Morrison, Kary Mullis, Albert Murray, Bao Nihn, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Juan Carlos Onetti, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Richard Posner, V.S. Pritchett, Manuel Puig, Salman Rushdie, Luc Sante, President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, Wole Soyinka, Colm Toibin, Robert Farris Thompson, and John Edgar Wideman.

    Erroll McDonald was born in Limon, Costa Rica. He graduated from Yale College summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with Distinction, and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. He was for two years a Fellow in the Department of Comparative Literature of the Yale Graduate School. He holds an MBA from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business. He has been a lecturer at Yale and is an adjunct professor at Columbia. A former trustee of PEN America, he lives in New York City and Goshen, Connecticut.

    Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan