NEA Big Read – 2/26 – 4/10/22

The 2022 NEA Big Read has completed, but you can still check below for our program recordings

Through the 2022 NEA Big Read initiative, the Pennington Public Library brought our community together around one book, The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui, and used this shared experience of reading, discussing and exploring the themes of the book as a stepping stone to learn from and listen to each other. NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.  See below for program recordings.

Book Summary

The Best We Could Do, the debut graphic novel memoir by Thi Bui, is an intimate look at one family’s journey from their war-torn home in Vietnam to their new lives in America. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves. At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent — the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through.

With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home. The Best We Could Do brings to life her journey of understanding and provides inspiration to all who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.

Past Programs & Events

Speaker & Lecture Recordings

Saturday, February 26 @ 3:00 pm via Zoom
Keynote Speaker: Uyen Khuong, Executive Director, Action Together New Jersey
Recording Available

Sunday, March 6 @ 3:00 pm via Zoom
History of the Graphic Novel — More Than Superheroes and Spandex
Recording Available

Thursday, March 10 @ 7:00 pm via Zoom
Storytelling in the Graphic Novel and the Oral Tradition
Recording Available

Sunday, March 20 @ 3:00 pm via Zoom and Viewing Party at the Hopewell Branch of Mercer County Library
Panel Discussion: Immigration Experiences in Hopewell Valley 
In partnership with the Hopewell Valley Historical Society and the Hopewell Museum
Recording Available

Tuesday, April 5 @ 6:30 pm via Zoom
Author Keynote: Thi Bui & Q&A
In conversation with Pulitzer Prize Winner, Viet Thanh Nguyen. In partnership with the Hopewell Valley Regional School District and the Miami Book Fair
Recording Available


Sunday, February 27 from 1:00 – 4:00 pm, Hopewell Valley Central High School
Make a Mini Comic or Zine 

Wednesday, March 9 @ 1:00 – 4:00 pm, Pennington Quilt Works
Kantha Quilting Workshop

Saturday, March 12, 2:00 – 4:00 PM, Pennington United Methodist Church
Lantern Making Workshop for Kids
In partnership with the Hopewell Valley Arts Council

March 2022 @ stores throughout Pennington
Take Home Craft: Full Moon Festival Lanterns 

Sunday, March 13 from 1:00 – 4:30 pm, Hopewell Valley Central High School
Guided Autobiography Workshop

Saturday, April 2 from 6:00 – 8:30 pm via Zoom
Vietnamese Cooking Class

Film Screenings and Discussions

Thursday, March 3 @ 7:00 pm, The Hopewell Theater
Immigration Themed Film Screening & Discussion: The Visitor

Wednesday, March 16 @ 7:00 pm, Pennington United Methodist Church
Immigration Themed Film Screening & Discussion: Brooklyn

Saturday, March 19, @ 2:00 pm, Pennington United Methodist Church
Family Film Screening & Craft: An American Tail

Streaming: Thursday, March 24 @ 7 pm ET to Sunday, March 27 @ 7 pm ET
Post film discussion with Director Judith Ehrlich, Sunday, March 27, 2022 @ 7 pm via Zoom – Recording coming soon!
Documentary Screening and Discussion with Director Judith Ehrlich: The Boys Who Said No! 

Sunday, April 3 @ 3:00 pm, Hopewell Valley Central High School
Immigration Themed Film Screening & Discussion: Foreign Letters

Book Discussions

Tuesday, March 22 @ 7:00 pm via Zoom
Companion Book Discussion: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Wednesday, March 23 @ 7 pm via Zoom
Partner Program: Heritage Month Book Discussion: A Girl Called Rumi by Ari Honarvar
Partners: Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD) & Hopewell Valley Education Foundation (HVEF)

Tuesday, March 29 @ 7:00 pm via Zoom
Book Discussion: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Wednesday, April 6 @ 7:30 pm via Zoom
Too Busy for Books Book Club Discussion: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Thursday, April 7 @ 2:00 pm via Zoom
Pennington Library Adult Book Club Discussion: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui


Sunday, April 10, @ St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 2-4 pm – FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Cultural Fair Celebration