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Eastern Connecticut State University has been named a recipient of a $15,000 grant to host the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read in Windham. The University is one of 84 nonprofit organizations nationwide selected to receive a NEA Big Read grant to support a community reading program. The NEA Big Read in Windham will focus on noted Mexican author Luis Alberto Urrea’s book “Into the Beautiful North.” Reading activities will take place between Oct. 6 and Nov. 19. Community project partners on the Big Read Windham include the Willimantic Public Library, EASTCONN Arts Magnet School, Hispanic Alliance of Southern Connecticut and the City of New London, among others.

Into the Beautiful North bookcoverIn “Into the Beautiful North,” Urrea tells the story of an idealistic 19-year-old woman who is inspired by the film “The Magnificent Seven” to travel from her home in Mexico to the United States to convince a bunch of men who left her town to return and help protect it from drug-dealers. Urrea explores, with compassion and humor, the microcultures within the border world, from the residents of a Tijuana garbage dump to the upscale neighborhoods of San Diego, and reveals that the distance between them is not as great as one might think. Urrea appears on Eastern’s campus this fall to read from his book.

Yulia Tikhonova, director of Eastern’s Art Gallery, extols the power of Urrea’s book: “This award gives our gallery a powerful story with which to voice our solidarity with people victimized by structural racism,” said Tikhonova. “Through our exhibitions and programs, we will feature Black and Brown artists of diverse media. We will offer our resources to support them as they struggle to ‘bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.’ As great art always does, ‘Into the Beautiful North’ stands for unity and action. Bertolt Brecht once said, ‘Hungry man, reach for the book — it is a weapon!’”

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.