NEA Big Read at UCF • January 8 – February 4, 2018

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment.

A program of the National Endowment for the Arts, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.

This year, UCF is one of 75 participating communities. The NEA Big Read at UCF is presented in partnership with Seminole County Public Library.

We will celebrate The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, the debut novel of MacArthur Foundation Fellow Dinaw Mengestu. Events include an art exhibition and play, book clubs, lectures, artist talks, and book signing.

 Dinaw Mengestu

Read the Press Release

This January, UCF will celebrate The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears in collaboration with the Seminole Public Library. Woven throughout these events is the goal of revitalizing reading as a shared community initiative.



UCF Library • Monday, January 8, 12-3 p.m.
Pick up a free copy of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears.

Finding Home: The Global Refugee Crisis

UCF Art Gallery • January 8 – February 2
Reception: January 18, 6-8 p.m.
Inspired by the novel, artists contribute contemporary
responses to the global refugee crisis.

Poetry Reading by Obi Nwakanma

UCF Art Gallery • Tuesday, January 16, 12 p.m.
Reading by Nigerian-born poet, journalist, and literary critic.

Reading and Book-Signing by Dinaw Mengestu

UCF Art Gallery • Thursday, January 18, 5 p.m.
Featuring MacArthur Foundation fellow and author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and How to Read the Air.


Theatre UCF Main Stage • January 25 – February 4
This powerful play by Tony Award-winner David Edgar won the Evening Standard Award for Best Play of 1995.
Pentecost Talk Back • Saturday, January 27, 10 p.m.
Join Christopher Niess, director of Pentecost, and Margaret Ann Zaho, associate professor of art history, for a discussion immediately following the January 27 performance.

Staged Reading of The Refugee Plays

UCF Art Gallery • Friday, January 26, 5 p.m.
Directed by Mark Brotherton, this series of short plays explores the experiences of refugees and undocumented immigrants.

Lecture by Günes Murat Tezcür

UCF Art Gallery • Tuesday, January 30, 4:30 p.m.
Tezcür, a social scientist and the Jalal Talabani Chair of Kurdish Political Studies at UCF, will present a lecture, “The ‘Orient’ of the ‘West’ and Beyond: Reflections on Contemporary Refugee Politics.”

Gallery Talk with Lauren Greenwald and Casey McGuire

UCF Art Gallery • Thursday, February 1, 4 p.m.
Two artists featured in Finding Home: The Global Refugee Crisis lead an in-depth discussion of their work, research, and process.

Illustration of Dinaw Mengestu

“After seventeen years here,
I am certain of at least one thing:
the liberal idea of America
is at its best in advertising.”

Sepha Stephanos in The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears


Seminole County Public Library will have a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” themed program for each of its Library Explorers Clubs.

Kids will explore the themes of community, diversity, and being welcoming — whether someone has just moved to a new school, their family has moved to a new country, or maybe they’ve never thought about the wonderful mix of cultures and traditions present in their own community.

Library Explorers Clubs are free and open to all K-5th graders. Parents welcome, but not required. Children do not need to have attended previous clubs.


Seminole County Public Library adult book clubs will read and discuss The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears. The clubs will host discussions that are open to the public.