NEA Big Read: New Castle County

NEA Big Read: New Castle County Libraries. The Best We Could Do

New Castle County Libraries is thrilled to bring the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read Program to our community. The program will feature the graphic memoir, The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui. An American Book Award winner, a National Book Critics Circle finalist in autobiography, and an Eisner Award finalist in reality-based comics, Bui documents her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Việt Nam in the 1970s and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves in America. 

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. It is designed to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Between September 2023 and March 2024, New Castle County Libraries will offer a series of free lectures, art programs, book discussions, and events, including a visit from author and illustrator Thi Bui. The programs will explore themes around identity, displacement and assimilation, race and immigration, memory, and historical movements. 

More About the Author/Book Opens in new window


WhIllustration: Mother and daughter talking, image of boat in the backgrounden will NEA Big Read: New Castle County programming happen?

Programming will occur between September 2023 and March 2024. Details below.

How can My Book Group Request Copies of The Best We Could Do?

Your book group can request copies of The Best We Could Do by filling out this online form starting on 09/01/2023.

Do I have to read the book in order to attend spring events?

No, you do not have to read the book to attend events. Events are focused on the book’s themes, but it is not necessary to read the graphic memoir to enjoy the programming. All are welcome!

What kind of programming is planned?

All events are FREE and open to the general public and there are programs for different age groups. Programs include cultural performances, art activities, library book discussions, storytimes, history sessions, conservation clinics with the University of Delaware, genealogical workshops, and more. 


NEA Author Event - Feb 22 @ 7 pm Dickinson High School Theater

NEA Big Read: Kickoff Craft

Multiple Library Branches - Sat., Sept. 2, 2023
Visit your local public library for a make-and-take craft based on the picture book, A Different Pond by Bao Phi (Author) and Thi Bui (Illustrator). Libraries will also have a limited number of copies of A Different Pond to giveaway. 

An Evening With Author Thi Bui:

Thurs., Feb. 22, 2024 @ 7 pm
Author and illustrator Thi Bui will discuss her work. Author signing to follow.

Community and Culture:

Traditional and Contemporary Music Dance and Fashion Show
Kirkwood Library - Sun., Nov. 5 @ 2 pm
• Vietnamese Zither (Dan` Tranh) - Folk Songs from 3 regions of Vietnam • Lyrical Music  (Nhạc Trữ tình) • Folk song (Dan ca) • Vietnamese Opera & swordsmanship • Lyrical Music - Thương quá Việt Nam • Spinning Hat Dance (Em đi xem hội trăng rằm) • Folk Music (Dan ca) Đêm gành hào nghe điệu hoài lang • Traditional Dance (Gặp nhau giữa rừng mơ) • Folk music • Fashion show Vietnamese Áo Dài- Asian Beauty Thuý Hằng Group •

Traditional Fan Dance
Route 9 Library - Sun., Nov. 12 @ 1:30 pm
The University of Pennsylvania Vietnamese Student Association presents a traditional fan dance. All ages. 

What We Keep
Appoquinimink Library -  Mon., Oct. 16, 2023 @ 10:30 am / Tues., Feb. 13, 2024 @ 2 pm
Claymont Library - Wed., Sept. 20, 2023 @ 1 pm
Route 9 Library - Tues., Nov. 7, 2023 @ 6:30 pm
Share the history and personal story behind your sentimental personal belongings. 

Protest Music of the 1960s & 1970s
Appoquinimink Library -  Wed., Jan. 17, 2024 @ 6:30 pm
Claymont Library - Wed., Jan. 24, 2024 @ 1:00 pm
Hockessin Library - Sat., Mar. 30, 2024 @ 11:00 am
Route 9 Library - Wed., Nov. 1, 2023 @ 6:30 pm
Woodlawn Library - Wed., Oct. 4, 2023 @ 6:30 pm
Learn about the counterculture of the 1960s and 70s and how music provided a means to communicate complicated issues around race, politics, sexuality, and the environment.

Know Your Rights
Bear Library -  Sat., Mar. 16, 2024 @ 11 am
Claymont Library - Reschedule TBD
Join the ACLU for a workshop reviewing what your rights are, how to exercise them, and what to do when your rights are violated.

Art Programs:

Intro to Graphic Novels
Brandywine Hundred Library - Mon., Sept. 11 - Mon., Oct. 2 @ 6:30 pm
Learn the basics of how to create a graphic novel using pencil, paper, and digital mediums. 

Hand-Built Ceramic Tile
Route 9 Library - Wed., Jan. 10, 2024 @ 6:30 pm
Explore basic hand-building pottery techniques like slab, coil, and pinching. Use these techniques to create your own water-themed tile inspired by this year’s Big Read book. 

Comic Portrait Canvas Painting
Hockessin Library - Wed., Jan. 24, 2024 @ 6:00 pm
Spend an evening learning introductory painting techniques and apply them to a painting inspired by this year’s Big Read book The Best We Could Do

Mini-Illustrated Memoir
Appoquinimink Library - Wed., Jan. 24 - Wed., Feb 7 @ 6:00 pm
Take a special event from your life (real or imagined) and learn how to transform it into your own mini-illustrated memoir. 

Make Your Own Zine
Route 9 Library - Tues., Jan. 23, 2024 @ 6:30 pm
Join artist, Nanci Hersh, to explore your creativity through drawing, collage, and book arts. Workshop participants will create their own unique folded books / zines using paper collage and colored markers to illustrate or tell a story. 

Story Mapping with Sarena Joy
Route 9 Library - Tues., Jan. 9 & 16, 2024 @ 6:30 pm
Create a "map" of important events in your life that led you to where you are today.

History and Genealogy:

Building and Understanding Family Trees 
Zoom - Tues., Oct. 17, 2023 @ 6 pm

Finding Records to Aid in Your Research 
Zoom - Tues., Nov. 14, 2023 @ 6 pm

DNA and its use in genealogical research presentation
Zoom - Tues., Jan. 16, 2024 @ 6 pm

Ethnicity and Migration
Zoom - Tues., Feb. 13, 2024 @ 6 pm

The Vietnam War and the Black Power Protest
Hockessin Library - Wed., Sept. 30 @ 11 am
Route 9 Library - Sat., Oct. 21 @ 11 am
In the mid-1960’s the African-American Civil Rights Movement morphed into a protest against the Vietnam War. This presentation samples the actual speeches given by these great civil rights leaders.

Preserving War Letters 
Elsmere Library - Mon., Nov. 6, 2023 @ 10:30 am
Learn how—and how not—to safeguard letters from our Delaware troops at war in this lively, interactive program by award-winning journalist Nancy E. Lynch who received nearly 1,000 letters from the frontlines of the Vietnam War for her popular newspaper column.

Vietnam Mailbag
Appoquinimink Library - Tues., Nov. 7, 2023 @ 2pm
Ms. Lynch discusses and reads selected war letters from her book, Vietnam Mailbag, Voices From the War: 1968-1972, based on her popular newspaper column, “Nancy’s Vietnam Mailbag.”

University of Delaware Art Conservation:

Preserving Family Treasures with the University of Delaware Art Conservation
Kirkwood Library - Tues., Oct. 10, 2023 @ 6:30 pm
Bear Library - Sat., Jan. 20, 2024 @ 10 am
Brandywine Hundred Library - Tues., Feb. 6, 2024 @ 5:30 pm

Library Book Clubs:

Join a library book club to discuss The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

Library Book Club List


Join a storytime focusing on Family, Immigration, & Identity! This storytime is inspired by the NEA Big Read program which highlights the graphic memoir, The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. 

Library Storytime List

Thanks to:

New Castle County Library Staff: Catherine Wimberley, Scott Businsky, Alysia Vanlooy, Marissa Parker, and Teresa Jones
New Castle County Art Studio: Nicole Sexton 
Appoquinmink School District: Lisa Ali-Turner (Coordinator of Instructional Programs)
Colonial School District: Tom Gavin (Supervisor, Educational Technology & Libraries)
Red Clay Consolidated School District: Julie Rumschlag (Supervisor of Unified Arts), Holly Golder (Supervisor of Social Studies), Erin Sullivan (Social Studies Teacher)
University of Delaware Art Conservation:  Dr. Joelle Wickens and Anisha Gupta
YWCA Delaware: Rebecca Cotto (Director of Racial & Social Justice)

NEA Big Read Logo

Appoquinimink School District Logo
Colonial School District Logo
Red Clay School District Logo

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.