We are thrilled to announce our 2021 program! will be headlined by six Native American authors and poets: Joy Harjo, Lydia Whirlwind Soldier, Angeline Boulley, Dr. Debbie Reese, Kevin Noble Maillard and Cynthia Leitch Smith. 

“This year, I’m excited to announce our program will be centered around Native American voices. It’s important to amplify the voices of Native American people and learn about history and culture from a Native American lens. This is a new focus for our program and the first time we’ve ever had so many authors join us. I’m looking forward to the discussion and learning that will occur in November!”

Dr. Deb Van Duinen, associate professor of English Education and director of the NEA Big Read Lakeshore

Joy Harjo, author of “An American Sunrise”, the program’s 2021 selection, is scheduled to kick off our program on October 25, 2021 at 7pm. With Joy Harjo joining live, this virtual conversation will be hosted in-person at Dimnent Chapel on Hope College’s campus. 

“It’s such an honor to have Joy Harjo, our current US Poet Laureate, participate in our program in this way. She’s a prominent voice in the Native American community and well-known around the world for her beautiful poetry. I can’t think of a better way to begin our month of programming than with her visit.”

Dr. Deb Van Duinen

Writer, musician, and current Poet Laureate of the United States, Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. “An American Sunrise:her eighth collection of poems—revisits the homeland from which her ancestors were uprooted in 1830 as a result of the Indian Removal Act. It is a “profound, brilliantly conceived song cycle, celebrating ancestors, present and future generations, historic endurance and fresh beginnings,” wrote critic Jane Ciabattari. 

Harjo’s many awards include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas; the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America; the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets; and two National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships. Joy Harjo previously visited Hope College in the fall of 1993 and spring of 2012 through the college’s Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series.

Lydia Whirlwind Soldier, a renowned poet and member of the Oak Lake Tribal Writers Society, joins Lakeshore readers on Tuesday, November 2 at 7:00 pm. At the virtual event, she will read her poetry and share the story behind each poem.

Born on the Rosebud foundation, Soldier graduated from Sinte Gleska University and holds a graduate degree from Pennsylvania State University. As a member of the Oak Lake Tribal Writers Society, her poetry is well known throughout the community. Not only is she a well-known poet, she is also a non-fiction writer, teacher and craftswoman. She received the 2015 South Dakota Living Indian Treasure Award that recognized her dedication to preserve traditional art forms. Lydia is a member of the Lakota tribe.

#1 New York Times Bestselling author Angeline Boulley will discuss her bestselling book, “Firekeeper’s Daughter” on Monday, November 8 at 7:00 pm. This virtual event is presented in collaboration with Herrick District Library.

Boulley is an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and tells the story of her Ojibwe community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Previously, she was the Director of the Office of Indian Education in the U.S. Department of Education. The YA thriller “Firekeeper’s Daughter” is her debut novel. She resides in southwest Michigan.

To discuss why literature matters, Dr. Debbie Reese is next on the program. Her event, “From Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie to Harjo’s An American Sunrise: Words Matter,” is set to occur on Wednesday, November 10 at 7:00 pm at Winants Auditorium in Graves Hall, Hope College. She will consider how words shape what readers know about this place called America and the people who call it home.

Dr. Debbie Reese is the founder of American Indians in Children’s Literature. She’s an educator focused on Native Americans in literature and holds a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Illinois. She co-edited a young adult adaptation of “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States” with Jean Mendoza in 2019. She is an enrolled member of the Nambe Owingeh tribe and grew up on Nambe’s reservation. 

The Big Read Lakeshore’s Little Read Lakeshore for children occurs concurrently and focuses on similar themes. This year, the Little Read selection is the picture book “Fry Bread” by Kevin Noble Maillard. Maillard will connect with young readers on Friday, November 12 at 9:00 am. He will show readers his studio, share his inspiration and describe how “Fry Bread” was created. This event is presented in collaboration with Herrick District Library.

“I’m thrilled that the authors of both our Big Read and Little Read selection are joining us this year,” said Van Duinen. She continued, “It’s an incredible opportunity for our community and particularly area students to interact with the authors of the books we are reading. We cannot wait for the special discussion we get to have with these authors!”

Dr. Deb Van Duinen

Maillard’s debut novel is “Fry Bread” which won the Sibert Medal and American Indian Youth Literature Honor. He is a Professor of Law at Syracuse University, co-founder of the Black Stream Partners consulting firm and contributor to the New York Times. He also has provided written commentary for The Atlantic and on-air commentary to ABC News and MSNBC. Maillard is an enrolled member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. He resides in Manhattan, NY.

Rounding out the robust line-up of authors is Cynthia Leitich Smith on Monday, November 15 at 7pm. Another collaboration with Herrick District Library, this event, “Native & First Nation Books for Young Readers with Cynthia Leitch Smith,” features literature for children and young adults that has created a movement towards equity. 

Smith celebrates this work through her own work as an editor, author and curator for HarperCollins’ Native-American focused imprint, Heartdrum. She is the 2021 NSK Neustadt Laureate and a New York Times bestselling author. Her books for young readers, including “Hearts Unbroken,” tell Native American history and amplify Native American voices. 

Smith’s most recent releases are “Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids” and “Sisters of the Neversea.” She is the curator of Heartdrum, a Native American focused imprint and is the Katherine Paterson Inaugural Chair on the faculty of a MFA program, Writing for Children and Young Adults, at Vermont College of the Fine Arts. She is a citizen of the Muscogee Nation and currently resides in Texas.

“Last year, we reinvented our program to be fully virtual. While we are looking forward to being in-person with our readers this year, we’ve still incorporated virtual events. Our team loves the connection that virtual events provide. We are able to connect with authors and readers from around the globe while being right here in West Michigan! This year’s hybrid program allows us to have the best of both worlds.”

Dr. Deb Van Duinen

These are the first events we have announced regarding the 2021 program. These events will be available for registration on bigreadlakeshore.com/events within the week. As we announce more events, the website will be updated.

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