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Fresno City College Hosts 2021 Big Read Featuring Joy Harjo's An American Sunrise

Mar 2, 2021

The NEA Big Read comes to Fresno City College this year for the first time, celebrating the book, An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, the current US Poet Laureate and first-ever Native American to hold the position. A number of events are schedule March 4 – April 24 including a kick-off event with a panel of poets laureate, book readings, Native American cultural events and culminating with a live virtual appearance from Ms. Harjo on Saturday, April 24 at 2 p.m. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all events will be held virtually.

The selection of Joy Harjo’s book, An American Sunrise, seeks to provide inspiration for the formation and reclamation of voice by Native Americans and other marginalized communities in California’s Central Valley. FCC’s Big Read project will highlight Native American issues by engaging local cultural communities as both audience and participants in a series of book discussions, dance, music, readings, storytelling, and visual arts activities centered on the text.

The NEA Big Read at Fresno City College is made possible through a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and generous support from the California Endowment. In previous years, the Fresno County Public Library received the grant with FCC supporting the appearance of authors.  The partnership continues this year and also includes the FCC Art Space Gallery and the SCCCD Foundation to make this event possible.

About the Author

Joy Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke (Creek) Nation, is a writer, musician and current Poet Laureate of the United States who was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  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. 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.

Event Schedule

Event details can be found at

March 4 • 12:00pm

Kick-Off: “Community Voices: A Celebration of An American Sunrise
This kick-off event will feature discussion and poetry readings by former US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera; Fresno Poets Laureate Marisol Baca and Lee Herrick; and Delaney Whitebird Olmo (Kashia Pomo, Karuk, and Yurok).

Fresno City College Facebook Live

March 4-April 22 

Big Read Event - Book Discussion of An American Sunrise 
Book discussions will be hosted by FCC and the Fresno County Public Library. Discussions will be held on Zoom. For more Big Read details go to

March 11 – April 30

Virtual Art Exhibition: “All Words Have Roots Here”
A group exhibition hosted by FCC’s Art Space Gallery and online. All Words Have Roots Here explores the themes of Joy Harjo’s “An American Sunrise” through visual art, cultural expression, and poetry by Native American artists indigenous to and those living in California. The title, All words have roots here, is a line from Harjo’s poem “Break My Heart.”

March 11 • 7:00pm

Tommy Orange, author of There There
Presented by Reedley College’s Literary Arts Speaker Series: Author Tommy Orange will discuss his award-winning novel, There There explores themes familiar to Native Americans in California.

April 16 & 23 • 7:00pm

Sharing Cultures: Central Valley Storytelling is a short documentary film series created by local Native and Indigenous students and community members premiering on CMAC.

Saturday, April 17 • 10:00am

“Shaking of Shells, the Drumming of Feet” The Tachi Youth Dance Group and local Native American artists will perform dance and musical tradition grounded by themes from Joy Harjo’s book as it relates to the significance of storytelling and expression within Native American communities. Virtual event via Zoom.

April 24 • 2:00pm

Virtual Keynote Speaker: Joy Harjo
Joy Harjo will keynote the Big Read program as our final event. This virtual presentation is free and open to the public and will be on Fresno City College Facebook Live.

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