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Northeast's NEA Big Read in NEN program set for Feb. 23 kick-off

Northeast's NEA Big Read in NEN program set for Feb. 23 kick-off

NORFOLK, Neb. – Northeast Community College will launch its National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read program exploring Rebekah Taussig’s book, Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body later this month. A kick-off event will be held Thur., Feb. 23, at 5 p.m., in the College’s Lifelong Learning Center, 601 E. Benjamin Ave. in Norfolk.

An initiative of the NEA, in partnership with Arts Midwest, the Big Read is designed to broaden society’s understanding of the world, its communities and its people through the power of a shared reading experience. 

Taussig is a Kansas City writer and teacher with a doctorate in Creative Nonfiction and Disability Studies. She has led workshops and presentations at the University of Michigan, University of Kansas, and Davidson College on disability representation, identity, and community. She also runs the Instagram platform @sitting_pretty where she crafts “mini-memoirs” to contribute nuance to the collective narratives being told about disability in our culture. 

“Our team selected Taussig’s memoir because we appreciate the honest and intimate rendering of her experiences, which inspires caring and connection,” said Jennifer Ippensen, director of library services at Northeast and NEA Big Read project director. “Events will focus on disability, disability services, accessibility, and inclusion and will promote open dialogue leading to a deeper understanding of how best to respect and serve one another.” 

The Feb. 23 kick-off event will feature a keynote address by Edison McDonald, executive director of The Arc of Nebraska – an organization that advocates with and for people with disabilities to have full inclusion into their communities – and author of Sowing the Seeds of Change: The Organizers Handbook. Music will be performed by Gotta Be Me's Heartlight Choir, a group from Omaha composed of people of all abilities. 

The event will include a disability services fair to assist individuals and families connect with organizations that offer services and benefits. It will begin at 5 p.m., with a “soft open” for those who prefer a lower sensory experience at the disability services fair. All are invited to join the festivities at 5:45, with main stage events beginning at 6 p.m. The fair will close at 9 p.m. 

Northeast Community College is one of 62 communities nationwide participating in the 2022-2023 NEA Big Read. From Feb. 23 - May 2, the community will celebrate Taussig’s book with a full calendar of events including a read aloud event for children ages 3 through 3rd grade, listening sessions, educational series, theatre workshops, slam poetry event, art activities, panel discussions, book clubs, and more. 

Brent Hobbs, of Norfolk, an ambassador of NEA Big Read in Northeast Nebraska, encourages members of the public to participate in the program’s events to gain a better understanding of Taussig’s book and what it means to the community.

“Having a disability shouldn’t hold people back,” Hobbs said. “I want the community to know people with disabilities have the ability to function in society and shouldn’t be judged.”

All events are listed at on the Northeast website at  

Copies of Taussig’s book and companion titles, Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (grades 9-12) and Can You See Me? by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott (grades 5-8) are presently being given away at the Northeast Library in Union 73 and at partnering locations throughout the community, including the Norfolk Public Library, Norfolk Arts Center, and Elkhorn Valley Museum, while supplies last. Copies may also be checked out from the Norfolk Public Library and the Northeast Library. Multiple formats are available.

The NEA Big Read in Northeast Nebraska is presented in partnership with the League of Human Dignity, Norfolk Public Library, Elkhorn Valley Museum, Norfolk Arts Center and other local and state organizations with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Local sponsors include Healthy Blue, Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau and Norfolk Area Community Foundation Fund.

“One of our hopes is that heightening awareness around disability and available services will help people seek the supports they need and empower them to achieve their academic and workforce development goals,” Ippensen said. “We also hope community members will engage in activities and conversations that lead to a deeper understanding of how best to respect and serve one another.”

For more information on the NEA Big Read in Northeast Nebraska program, contact Ippensen at the Northeast Community College Library,, or call (402) 844-7133. 


                                                                                              PHOTO CUTLINE 

Northeast Community College students Hannah Herron, Ord (left), Alex Guenther, Norfolk, and Lindsey Hoehne, Stanton, pick-up their free copies of books to participate in the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read in Northeast Nebraska program that runs through May 2. Northeast is one of 62 organizations nationwide that has been selected to receive a 2022-23 NEA Big Read grant to sponsor a shared reading experience and host events in the Norfolk area surrounding the book Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig.