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National Endowment for the Arts Big Read: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read project will produce a series of book discussions and events to raise local attention on what it means to age well and live well in our diverse community.

  • Sponsor
    National Endowment for the Arts
  • Principal investigator
    Melisa Misha Cahnmann-Taylor
    Professor, Language and Literacy Education
  • Active since
    June 2020

Visit the Project Website


The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read, a partnership with Arts Midwest, aims to inspire conversation and discovery around a book. As part of the grant, Melisa “Misha” Cahnmann-Taylor will launch a series of readings, lectures, and events focused on the works of famed American cartoonist Roz Chast to raise local attention on what it means to age well and live well in our diverse community.

Through the project, Athens-based communities will discuss Chast’s book, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” with multi-age, culturally, and linguistically diverse readers in combination with literature, graphic art, dance, and discussion. The book will act as a catalyst for engaging in important conversations about aging well and living well across the lifespan.

The project will partner with the Athens Community Council on Aging to celebrate Older Americans Month in May, in collaboration with the Georgia Museum of Art and Athica Gallery, to draw attention to aging with the power of graphic arts to tell life stories.

Chast’s book connects to graphic arts, aging, and Jewish cultural identity and family. The keynote event will feature poet and feminist scholar Alicia Ostriker. In collaboration with the Congregation Children of Israel, Ostriker will speak to themes in Chast’s book, facilitating her noted Midrashic workshops to engage the community in discussions about spiritual identity and aging.

The events will take place May 9-June 20, 2021, appropriately between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, to follow the narrative of the book as it relates to themes of health, wellness, family care, and finances. All events are confirmed and include a kick-off, eight book discussions, and special events including the literary, performing, and visual arts with partners including: Nimbl Dance Studio, Athens Clarke County Public Libraries, Athens Community Council on Aging, Congregation Children of Israel, PJ Library, Georgia Museum of Art, and Athica Contemporary Art Gallery.

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