NEA Big Read

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Showcasing a diverse range of contemporary titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation and discovery.

The 2019 Big Read centers on Jhumpa Lahiri's book The Namesake, with related free events offered throughout Greater New Haven. If your organization would like take part, please submit your event below. Past Big Read events at a variety of venues have included book club discussions, panel discussions, lectures, exhibitions, and poetry readings directly related to or inspired by the central book. Submit your Big Read Event >

National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellow Jhumpa Lahiri is known publicly by her nickname because her kindergarten teacher deemed it easier to pronounce than her proper name, Nilanjana Sudeshna. Born to Bengali émigré parents and newly arrived in the United States from London, she had to grapple early with questions of identity, and the impact of this is palpable in The Namesake. In this 2003 bestseller by the Pulitzer-prize-winning author, two generations of a Bengali-American family in Massachusetts struggle between new and old, assimilation and cultural preservation, striving toward the future and longing for the past. This is “a story of guilt and liberation; it speaks to the universal struggle to extricate ourselves from … family and obligation and the curse of history” (Boston Globe). The novel “beautifully conveys the émigré’s disorientation, nostalgia, and yearning for tastes, smells, and customs left behind” (Los Angeles Times Book Review). Lahiri can be seen in a cameo as “Aunt Jhumpa” in the 2006 film adaptation.

Stay and Play

Join for a celebration of India! Story songs and more! Ages 0-4 with parent or caregiver.

Mon, May 13, 2019, 10:00am  Details
1 hr 30 min

Stay and Play

Come to listen to "Alama and How she got her Name" and other stories. Ages: 0-4 with parent caregiver

Wed, May 22, 2019, 10:30am  Details

The NEA Big Read 2019 Book Discussion

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Join us for a book discussion of New Haven's pick for this year's Big Read book The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri. The Namesake follows the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. With penetrating insight, Lahiri reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, com to define ourselves.

Thu, May 23, 2019, 5:30pm  Details

Stay and Play

Many People, Many Colors. In this NEA Big Read Themed Storytime, we explore how we are all different and how we are all the same.

Tue, May 28, 2019, 10:30am  Details

Kids' Craft

Family Program, involving creating a mural/murals using words and images from culture (i.e. magazines) themes of family and relationships.

May 29 - June 5, 2019  Details
1 hr

Film Screening and Discussion with the Arts & Ideas Fellows

The Namesake is the story of the Ganguli family whose move from Calcutta to New York evokes a lifelong balancing act to meld to a new world without forgetting the old. Although parents Ashoke and Ashima long for the family and culture that enveloped them in India, they take great pride in the opportunities their sacrifices have afforded their children. Paradoxically, their son Gogol is torn between finding his own unique identity without losing his heritage. Even Gogol's name represents the family's journey into the unknown. 

Thu, May 30, 2019, 5:30pm  Details

A Celebration of Names

Come and listen to two stories that explore what it's like to have a unique name as a child, and then make a craft to celebrate your own name!

Sat, June 1, 2019, 2:00pm  Details

Stay and Play

Come to listen to "Thread of Love" by Kabir Sehgal & Surishtha Sehgal and other stories and enjoy the music and crafts. Ages 0-4 with parent caregiver.

Tue, June 4, 2019, 11:00am  Details

Confronting Identity: An Arts & Ideas Fellows Town Hall

It has become a Festival tradition for our high school Festival Fellows to begin our Festival and Ideas program with their own Town Hall. Join them this year as they explore the themes of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, opening up a public discussion examining the importance of one's culture and background, gender, and name.

Ideas talks are going on all Festival long! Read our advice on how to get the most from these explorative conversations >

Sat, June 8, 2019, 1:00pm  Details
1 hr 30 min


with Kashyap Jani and Friends

Garba360 brings the exhilarating energy of folk dances garba and raas to new communities for all to celebrate through dance. Garba is a form of Indian folk dance and music from Gujarat, ever evolving through creative voices. Garba360 has enlivened festivals in Chicago, New York and San Francisco with the invigorating traditional music of Kashyap Jani and Friends and their shared passion about spreading their culture. The clapping, spinning and bright colors of garba commemorate wedding celebrations and the vivacious Hindu festival Navratri. Garba360 instructors guide new dancers, using the dance to educate about Navratri and its mythological importance.

Sun, June 9, 2019, 7:00pm  Details
2 hrs 30 min

Create a Taj Mahal

Come learn about the Taj Mahal and then build your own! Ages: 5-10

Tue, June 11, 2019, 4:00pm  Details

The Namesake: What's in a Name?

Join us to investigate and relate the story of "The Namesake" and meaning of your first names. Ages: teens

Tue, June 11, 2019, 5:00pm  Details
1 hr 30 min

Creating in Color with Rangoli!

Create your own colorful outdoor design with the ancient art of Rangoli. Ages: Family

Wed, June 12, 2019, 4:00pm  Details
1 hr

StorySharing Open Group

International Festival of Arts and Ideas/The Big Read: Jhumpa Lahiri's THE NAMESAKE

The Institute Library supports the International Festival of Arts and Ideas by being part of The Big Read this year. This year's book is Jhumpa Lahiri's already-classic THE NAMESAKE. The Institute Library will be drawing on the Listen Here! team and hosting a short reading from THE NAMESAKE on Saturday, June 15th. Come hear a selection from the book, and then be part of a round-table discussion of issues of immigration and assimilation as we see and experience them. Issues about names; identity' decisions -- made deliberately or subconsciously -- to assimilate or not; these and more are all open for discussion. The Institute Library is proud to be part of The Big Read this year and is excited to host and facilitate this dialogue.

Thu, June 13, 2019, 6:00pm  Details

Wordfest: Citywide High School Jam

Passionate poets and rappers from New Haven high schools meet throughout the Spring - writing, workshopping and performing with The Word’s teaching artists and special guests. This culminating event gathers The Word’s high school poets for a jam followed by an open mic. This performance includes original poetry influenced by the NEA Big Read book The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Thu, June 13, 2019, 7:00pm  Details
2 hrs

Cultural Identity

presented with Elm City Cycling

Experience the New Haven Cultural Heritage Tour by bike. The tour tells the pre-1970 stories of the experiences, contributions and hardships faced in New Haven by five of the cultural and ethnic groups that have enriched our community.

Sat, June 15, 2019, 9:00am  Details
3 hrs

We Knew Haven: A Youth Activist Perspective

featuring New Haven Youth Activists Mia Joseph, Lihame Arouna, Kelly Pinots, and Shawn Murray

Featuring New Haven Youth Activists asking the questions: What do you imagine your New Haven to look like? How do you feel your identity is connected to your activism? What are youth activists doing to combat gentrification, racism, over-surveillance downtown?

Ideas talks are going on all Festival long! Read our advice on how to get the most from these explorative conversations >

Sat, June 15, 2019, 1:00pm  Details
1 hr

“I Am” Slam Poetry Competition

In this invitational slam poetry competition, many of 2019’s best slam poets from around the northeast gather to compete for a $1000 cash prize. Inspired by the NEA Big Read book The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri, this slam features spoken word artists responding to the questions “Who am I?” and “Who are we?”

Sun, June 16, 2019, 2:00pm  Details
2 hrs

The Big Read Walking Tour

Take a walk to the different locations mentioned in The Namesake as part of the Big Read.

Sun, June 16, 2019, 3:00pm  Details
45 min

Split Tooth

Tanya Tagaq

Fact can be as strange as fiction. It can also be as dark, as violent, as rapturous. In the end, there may be no difference between them.
A girl grows up in Nunavut in the 1970s. She knows joy, and friendship, and parents’ love. She knows boredom, and listlessness, and bullying. She knows the tedium of the everyday world, and the raw, amoral power of the ice and sky, the seductive energy of the animal world.

Wed, June 19, 2019, 5:30pm  Details
1 hr 30 min

Tours Around the World: Stories from India

Join us for a fun afternoon of world traveling through stories, music and crafts. Ages 0-4 with parent caregiver

Thu, June 20, 2019, 4:00pm  Details

Words Reclaiming Worlds

featuring New Haven / Northeast writers and spoken word artists Keona-Marie, Duke Porter, Yexandra Diaz, and Paul Bryant Hudson

Poets and other creative writers from the northeastern United States share poems and conversation about the shifting relationship between identity and place. How can poets and other culture creators challenge or shift the identity of a place? How can a place challenge or shift our own intersecting identities?

Ideas talks are going on all Festival long! Read our advice on how to get the most from these explorative conversations >

Sat, June 22, 2019, 1:00pm  Details
1 hr 30 min