Illinois Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts Bring Illinoisans Together With Free Books, Book Groups, and Community Events as Part of the 2021–2022 Big Read Program

For Immediate Release: October 14, 2021Contact: | 773.251.4772

Press Releases
Illinois Humanities

Read Time 4 minutes
October 1, 2021

The community book group and event series: Rememory: haunting, trauma, and historical fiction aims to build community by fostering long-overdue conversations that help Illinoisians process collectively the hauntings of the past, where we are today, and where we are heading.

CHICAGO, OCT 14, 2021

Illinois Humanities, in partnership with Arts Midwest, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Haitian American Museum of Chicago, the Blue Island Public Library, and the Brighton Park Public Library, will host the free community book group and event series Rememory: haunting, trauma, and historical fiction between November 2021 and April 2022. The series is part of and funded by the NEA Big Read initiative. Programming and events will focus on three groundbreaking novels: Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, and Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of This World.

“For 15 years the NEA Big Read has supported opportunities for communities to come together around a book, creating a shared experience that encourages openness and conversations around issues central to our lives,” said Ann Eilers, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The series, which launched on Wednesday, October 13, 2021, fosters unique, community-based, literary experiences throughout Chicagoland by including monthly community book group meetings (in both English and Spanish); access to free copies of the books (in both English and Spanish); and a series of five virtual events that coincide with the themes of these novels. Events include writing workshops (in both English and Spanish), a virtual tour of the collections at the Art Institute of Chicago, a discussion on Afrofuturism, and a workshop on oral histories.

“Illinois Humanities’ free public programming harnesses the communal power of the humanities through literature. Programming such as NEA Big Read and the Long Overdue Book Groups create opportunities to connect with neighbors through examining the past, understanding the present, and envisioning a future in a creative and welcoming accessible environment,” said Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director of Illinois Humanities.

Rememory: haunting, trauma, and historical fiction is inspired by the multiple reckonings we continue to encounter and absorb as we imagine more flourishing, inclusive futures together. No vision for such a future can be sustained without a deep regard for how the past, with its traumas and victories, has produced our present. The texts explored in the series use the supernatural, magical realism, and science fiction to give life, agency, and dimension to histories that are at once unbearable and necessary for us to confront,” said Becky Amato, Director of Teaching at Learning at Illinois Humanities.

  • Wednesday, October 13, 2021
    Rememory: haunting, trauma, and historical fiction: Launch Event
  • Watch on YouTube
  • Featuring our reading group facilitators and short, evocative videos produced by the series’ event and workshop hosts.
  • Thursday, December 9, 2021from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
    “Some Said You Were The Spitting Image of Evil”: Virtual Writing Workshop
  • Featuring: Nicole Bond – writer, educator at Smart Museum of Art and Court Theatre, University of Chicago
  • Wednesday, January 19, 2022 from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
    Futures, World-Building, and Art: Virtual Workshop
  • Featuring: Ian Damont Martin – Executive Director of Inclusion and Belonging, The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Wednesday, February 23, 2022 from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
    Afrofuturism: Virtual Lecture/Discussion
  • Featuring: Ytasha Womack – author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture and John Jennings – co-author/illustrator of Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation
  • Wednesday, March 16, 2022 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
    The Power of Oral Histories – Remembering and Recording Everyday Voices: Virtual Workshop
  • Featuring: Dr. Courtney Joseph – K. & H. Montgomery Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies & Chair of African American Studies, Lake Forest College
  • Saturday, April 2, 2022 (en español) 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
    El reino de este mundo: la poesía como narración
  • Featuring: Ruben Quesada – poet, author of Revelations and Next Extinct Mammal

Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community, and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds.

Learn more about Illinois Humanities at and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @ILHumanities.


The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read, a partnership with Arts Midwest, broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Showcasing a diverse range of themes, voices, and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation and discovery. Learn more about the NEA Big Read.

Since the NEA Big Read initiative began, many organizations have received funds to participate in the program. Learn more about the other organizations in Illinois that will participate in the 2021/2022 season.


Arts Midwest believes that creativity has the power to inspire and unite humanity. Based in Minneapolis, they grow, gather, and invest in creative organizations and communities throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, and beyond.

Arts Midwest is serving as an organization partner for NEA Big Read.