If you’ve set a New Year’s resolution to read more books in 2021, you can start making good on your promise with “Silver Sparrow,” part of the NEA Big Read: Central Florida program. UCF faculty, staff and students can pick up a complimentary copy at the John C. Hitt Library of Tayari Jones’ fiction novel on Jan. 11 during the Big Read’s kick-off event from 1­–3 p.m.

The NEA Big Read: Central Florida is a program designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment. This year, it runs from Jan. 11 through Feb. 23 and will feature a series of exciting events related to the novel.

Silver Sparrow text and Tayari Jones' face

Silver Sparrow was added to the NEA Big Read Library of classics in 2016. Jones’ website describes the book as “a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and the teenage girls caught in the middle. Set in a middle-class neighborhood in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s families — the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters.”

“Jones’ book…offers an excellent opportunity for UCF to bring impactful programs that celebrate the role of literature in our community,” says Keri Watson, director of the NEA Big Read: Central Florida. “Our programming will coincide with UCF’s celebration of Black History Month, and we are working with Africana Studies to bring the Big Read to a new campus audience.”

UCF is one of 84 communities nationwide participating in the NEA Big Read this year, receiving a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. This is the sixth consecutive year the College of Arts and Humanities has received NEA funding to host the program.

NEA Big Read Events

Additionally, from Jan. 11 through Feb. 5, the UCF Art Gallery will host But Before Bone is Skin, an exhibition curated by Jonell Logan, creative director for the McColl Center for Art + Innovation in Charlotte, N.C.

On Jan. 22, a keynote address by Logan will take place via Zoom. She will discuss the relationship between the visual and literary arts, Silver Sparrow and the ways in which the novel’s themes informed the artwork featured in But Before Bone is Skin. On Jan. 28, contributing artists to the exhibition will discuss their artwork and how the themes of the book inspired their work in an artist panel via Zoom.

In addition, Seminole County Public Libraries will host daytime and evening book-discussion groups at each of its five branches, for a total of 10 book clubs this year. All clubs and discussions will take place via Zoom and are free and open to the public.

Visit UCF’s Big Read website to learn more about the NEA Big Read: Central Florida and register for the program’s upcoming events.

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.