Marfa Dialogues

The Big Read

10 January 2008

The Big Read Launch Party
with performances by Leah McWilliams and Azul
Ballroom Marfa
10 January 2008 | 6-8 pm

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) today continued its drive toward making the Big Read the largest federal reading program in U.S. history. The NEA announced that THE FRIENDS OF THE MARFA PUBLIC LIBRARY is one of 127 libraries, municipalities, and arts, culture, higher education, and science organizations to receive a grant to host a Big Read celebration of one of 16 classic novels from January-June 2008. Marfa’s Big Read will take place in February 2008. The featured read is Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya, a coming of age story about Antonio Márez, a Hispanic boy growing up in 1940s New Mexico. “It’s a lot about faith, religion, family and the choices one makes,” says Alice Jennings, the Friends president. “Anaya wrote the book in the early ‘70s, during Vietnam, so it’s also timely in terms of a nation involved in a war and its effect on a small town.”

The NEA launched the Big Read nationally in 2007 in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. With additional grant support from the Lannan Foundation, the Friends of the Marfa Public Library have organized more than 30 community-wide book group discussions and special events throughout the month.

The MARFA BIG READ will involve the entire community, including the Marfa Sectors of the Texas Army National Guard and the US Border Patrol, and beginning with a kickoff event, on January 10, at Ballroom Marfa, during which free copies of Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima, in both English and Spanish, will be distributed. (Tim and Lynn Crowley have donated hundreds of copies to the high school in memory of Patricia Ann Goode.) The night will also feature performances by Leah McWilliams and San Antonio folksinger, Azul.

Other event highlights: A Marfa Big Read launch party on February 1, hosted by The Friends of the Marfa Public Library; a month-long Sunday night film series at the library; a lap read for toddlers on February 9 at the library; special radio programming, including an interview with Rudolfo Anaya; a staging of the novel at the Goode Crowley Theater on February 16; a hands-on baking class with baker, John Jennings, on New Mexican pastries at the Marfa Baking Company on February 19; a late-night book discussion on February 20 at the Thunderbird Lounge; guest lecturers, including Dr. Jaime Mejia from Texas State University on February 21 at the Blackwell School; a book discussion hosted by the Judd Foundation at The Block in downtown Marfa on February 23; as well as essay, t-shirt, and song-writing contests.

    The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest.

    Support for The Big Read in Marfa, Texas was provided by the Marfa Public Library, Friends of the Marfa Public Library, Marfa Independent School District, the Lannan Foundation, Marfa Book Company, Chinati Foundation, Judd Foundation, The Big Bend Sentinel, Marfa Public Radio, Thunderbird Hotel, Blackwell School, Crowley Theater, Marfa Baking Company, Marfa Recording Company, Marfa Studio of Arts, Marfa Quilting Club, Tille Arts, Tumbleweed Laundry, San Jose Hotel, Texas Monthly, The Austin Chronicle, and many folks who love the tiny desert town of Marfa, Texas. For a complete list of supporters, please visit