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Toni Morrison_8202 (c) Michael Lionstar

NEA Big Read 2022: Beloved by Toni Morrison

The Center for Fiction’s 2022 Big Read initiative focuses on Beloved, the landmark novel by the late, Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. Our free multidisciplinary public programming includes discussion groups, workshops for young writers, and public events with authors and scholars. The Center will also connect with students through our signature KidsRead / KidsWrite programming, bringing events to NYC public schools that adapt discussions of Beloved for a high school audience and feature books suitable for younger readers that engage with similar themes.

Through this communal celebration of a novel that has been frequently banned and censored, we hope to help return a masterful novelist’s canonical work to its rightful place of prominence. This initiative was made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

About Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

1931 - 2019

Toni Morrison_8202 (c) Michael Lionstar copy

Toni Morrison

1931 - 2019

Toni Morrison is the author of eleven novels and three essay collections. She received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and in 1993 the Nobel Prize in Literature.

About Beloved

Beloved is an unflinching look into the abyss of slavery. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.

Featured Guests and Instructors

  • Crystal Dickinson High Res 2 1[2302] - Claire Fennell

    Crystal Dickinson

    Crystal Dickinson

    Crystal Dickinson’s Broadway credits include the Tony Award-winning play, Clybourne Park, and Tony-nominated play, You Can’t Take It with You. She has performed off-Broadway at Lincoln Center, The Public Theater, Signature Theater, Playwrights Horizons, and The Atlantic. Her film & TV credits include I Origins, The Good Wife, Feed the Beast, New Amsterdam, and recurring roles on the Showtime drama, The CHI and ABC’s, For Life.

  • Dr. Shelly Eversley - Claire Fennell

    Dr. Shelly Eversley

    Dr. Shelly Eversley

    Dr. Shelly Eversley is professor of English and interim chair of the Black and Latinx Studies department at Baruch College, City University of New York (CUNY), where she teaches literature, feminism, and Black studies. She is also faculty co-director of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Transformative Learning in the Humanities initiative at CUNY. She was recently academic director of CUNY’s Faculty Fellowship Publication Program and is founder of equalityarchive.com. She is the author of The Real Negro: The Question of Authenticity in Twentieth Century African American Literature (Routledge, 2004) as well as several essays on literature, race, and culture. Her editorial work includes The Sexual Body and The 1970s, both special issues of WSQ, a journal by The Feminist Press, as well as the forthcoming book African American Literature in Transition, 1960–1970: Black Art, Politics, and Aesthetics (Cambridge). She is currently revising a new book titled The Practice of Blackness: Cold War Surveillance, Censorship and African American Literary Survival.

  • No, YOU Tell It!

    Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons

    Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons

    Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons is a writer, educator, and storyteller who lives in Astoria, Queens. Her recent work has appeared in HiLobrow, Marie Claire, and Hippocampus magazine. She is also the creator of No, YOU Tell It! (noyoutellit.com), a series that advocates for authentic personal stories by having storytellers trade true tales to speak each other’s words aloud, empowering voices on the page and stage. Follow @noyoutellit on Instagram for more.

  • 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.

  • Donna Hill

    Donna Hill

    Donna Hill

    Donna Hill’s latest book is titled Confessions in B-Flat. Hill is also the author of Divas, Inc. and In My Bedroom, and has more than 80 published titles to her credit since her first novel was released in 1990. She is one of the pioneers of the African American romance genre. Three of her novels have been adapted for television. Her awards include The Career Achievement Award, The Trailblazer Award, The Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award, and The Gold Pen Award. She is an assistant professor of Professional Writing at Medgar Evers College, and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Hill has been featured in Essence, the Daily News, USA Today, Today’s Black Woman, and Black Enterprise, among many others. She can be found at www.donnaohill.com.

  • Ty jones Sandro - Claire Fennell

    Ty Jones

    Ty Jones

    NAACP Award Winner, Ty Jones is the OBIE Award Winning Producing Artistic Director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH). Under Jones’ leadership, CTH’s template of financial discipline, precision marketing, and exceptional programming, resulted in its growth and stability. Jones initiated Uptown Meets Downtown, a program comprising strategic partnerships with downtown theatres designed to share expenses and build artistic bridges between communities. He created Uptown Shakespeare in the Park, bringing free, professional theatre to Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park. Jones is a vet of five Broadway shows including Julius Caesar with Denzel Washington. Principal TV/film work includes, When They See Us, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and he’s best known as Agent Donovan on Power. Graduate and Honorary Doctorate of the University of Delaware.

  • Screen Shot 2022-04-30 at 2.17.45 PM

    Roen Emersyn Jones

    Roen Emersyn Jones

    Roen Emersyn Jones is a 13 yr old violinist who attends the Special Music School. She is a 7th grader who also plays the Viola and loves math.

  • Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan www.beowulfsheehan.com

    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

  • Monica Miller - Claire Fennell

    Monica L. Miller

    Monica L. Miller

    Monica L. Miller is Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Africana Studies and English at Barnard College, Columbia University. A specialist in contemporary African American and Afro-diasporic literature and cultural studies, she is the author of the award-winning book Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity (Duke University Press, 2009). A grantee from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Institute for Citizens & Scholars, she is a frequent commentator in the media and arts worlds and teaches and writes about Black literature, art, and performance, fashion cultures, and contemporary Black European culture and politics.

  • Emily Raboteau - Claire Fennell

    Emily Raboteau

    Emily Raboteau

    Emily Raboteau is the author of The Professor’s Daughter (Henry Holt and Co., 2005); Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013), winner of an American Book Award; and Lessons for Survival, forthcoming in 2023. Her writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, New York magazine, and elsewhere. She is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, a contributing editor at Orion magazine, and a professor of creative writing at the City College of New York.

  • Dana Williams

    Dana A. Williams

    Dana A. Williams

    Dana A. Williams is Professor of African American Literature and Dean of the Graduate School at Howard University. She is president of the Toni Morrison Society and 2nd Vice-President of the Modern Languages Association. She serves as a member of the advisory board for the Furious Flower Poetry Center, the Hurston/Wright Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies.

  • Credit John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

    Jacqueline Woodson

    Jacqueline Woodson

    Jacqueline Woodson is the recipient of a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship, the 2020 Hans Christian Andersen Award, the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and the 2018 Children’s Literature Legacy Award. She was the 2018–2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and in 2015, she was named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She received the 2014 National Book Award for her New York Times bestselling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, which also received the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, the NAACP Image Award and a Sibert Honor. She also wrote the adult books Red at the Bone, a New York Times bestseller, and Another Brooklyn, a 2016 National Book Award finalist. She is the author of dozens of award-winning books for young adults, middle graders and children; among her many accolades, she is a four-time Newbery Honor winner, a four-time National Book Award finalist, and a two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner. Her books include Before the Ever After, New York Times bestsellers The Day You Begin and Harbor Me; The Other Side; Each Kindness; Caldecott Honor book Coming On Home Soon; Newbery Honor winners Feathers, Show Way, and After Tupac and D Foster; and Miracle’s Boys, which received the LA Times Book Prize and the Coretta Scott King Award. Jacqueline is also a recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement for her contributions to young adult literature and a two-time winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.

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.