Residents Discuss the Immigrant Experience As Big Read Program Comes to End

The room at the Silver Spring Public Library Branch was packed during a conversation about the immigrant experience. The discussion was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Initiative.

“Each year, nonprofits can apply for a grant to help support the program in the community,” said Anita Vassallo, acting director for Montgomery County Public Libraries.

NEA’s Big Read Initiative aims to broaden understanding of the world and communities through books.  Program coordinators in Montgomery County chose The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu for this year’s Big Read.

“We went with this one because it speaks so closely to what so many of our county residents encounter here,” said Vassallo.

“I always hope that readers come away with the sense of the complexity of what it means to come to America and recreate your home and rebuild your life after having to lose so much,” said Mengestu.

The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read awarded its Big Read grant to Montgomery County Public Libraries, Friends of the Library Montgomery County, Montgomery Community Media, Montgomery History, and the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

“When we have so many people reading and talking about the same book, it gives that kind of connection that you really want to forge a strong community,” said Vassallo.


This Event was Partially Funded By



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About Mitti Hicks

Mitti Hicks is a multimedia journalist and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media. She is passionate about telling stories that impact our community and may be reached at and on Twitter @mittimegan.


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