An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Showcasing a diverse range of contemporary titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation and discovery.  We hope you'll join ChattState's Writers@Work team in a reading celebration of Tayari Jones's Silver Sparrow for the Chattanooga Big Read 2017.



Chattanooga Big Read 2017 Kick-Off at The Camp House

January 19th, 6:30-8:30 pm

Join the Chatt State Writers@Work team, as we launch our city-wide Big Read of Tayari Jones’s Silver Sparrow. Enjoy live entertainment from local jazz trio Charlie the Head, dessert, and a cash bar, followed by a reading and signing by Jones.  We’ll be giving away book-club-in-a-bag starter kits, so you can begin your own Big Read journey with us!


Paint the Town Read: An Artistic Exploration of Silver Sparrow at Townsend Atelier

February 28TH, 6:00-8:00 PM

Chatt State Art Professor Joe Helseth will lead participants in an exploration of Silver Sparrow’s themes and in the creation of their own representative works of visual art.  Light refreshments will be served, and there is no cost for participation.  Space is limited to 35 participants, and reservations must be made below.


So Much Drama: Theatrical Interpretations of Silver Sparrow at Chattanooga State Community College

March 23rd, 7:00-8:30 PM

Chatt State Theater Professor Evans Jarnefeldt and English Professor Rachael Falu will lead a troupe of actors and audience members in an interactive theater production of selected scenes from Silver Sparrow.  Family therapist Laura Huddleston, LPC, will then co-facilitate a discussion of the novel’s themes, allowing cast and audience alike to share personal narratives relative to the issues raised. Join us for a dramatic and insightful evening of theatrical exploration with all the feels.


An Evening with Tayari Jones at Bessie Smith Cultural Center

April 10th, 5:30-7:00 PM

Help Chatt State’s Writers@Work team welcome Silver Sparrow author Tayari Jones to town for her week-long Big Read culminating visit.  Come enjoy heavy hors d'oeuvres, a reading by Jones, and a storytelling performance by Alexis Willis and Natural Beautiful Me at the historic Bessie Smith Cultural Center.  Book signing will follow.


Inside the Mind of Tayari Jones: The Behind-the-Writer Interview at The Camp House

APRIL 11TH, 7:00-8:30 PM

Join us at the Camp House for Writers@Work’s annual interview night.  Tayari Jones will be interviewed by Chatt State Speech and English Professor Lori Barton about such diverse topics as her writing process, the stories behind her novels, her identity as a Southern writer, and more.  Bring your questions to ask the author and bring your copy of the book for the signing and reception to follow.  


A Night at the Museum: Guided Gallery Walk and Readings from Silver Sparrow at Hunter Museum of American Art

APRIL 12TH, 5:15-8:30 PM

Make sure you’re present at the last stop on Tayari Jones’s Writers@Work Big Read Chattanooga journey when she takes center stage in the beautiful lobby of the Hunter Museum for a reading and talk.  Come early for a guided gallery walk with Adera Causey, Curator of Education, and stick around afterward for delicious refreshments, a book signing, and your chance to say “thank you” to the author before she leaves.


Last Chance
Book Signing at
Star Line Books

APRIL 13TH, 10:00-11:30 AM

If you forgot your book at the other events, or if you just haven’t gotten around to getting yours signed, come on out to Star Line Books for your last chance to get Writers@Work visiting author Tayari Jones’s autograph.  While you’re there, visit with owner Star Lowe and support Chattanooga’s only independent bookstore.


History of Writers @ Work

In 2011, the Chattanooga State Community College Humanities Department founded Writers @ Work (W@W) to enhance the practice of literary analysis in its Composition II classes through the reading of a common novel with a focus on Southern culture and people. It quickly transformed into an annual arts experience that touches the lives of countless people in the greater Chattanooga area.

W@W chooses Southern authors whose works center on life in this region, giving participants a new understanding and appreciation for the culture and arts offered in the South, in their own city, and through the community college that serves it. In a media-driven world that shows a limited, and often stereotyped, view of the South, W@W actively works to showcase and celebrate the diversity and rich culture of the Southern people.

In the last five years, W@W has expanded to provide more opportunities for public interaction with visiting authors through dynamic events that are always free to attendees. These events take place in various spotlight locations across the city such as the Chattanooga Aquarium, Bessie Smith Cultural Center, and the Hunter Museum of American Art, where the community can interact with the authors in settings that highlight the best of Chattanooga.


Over the last five years, W@W has showcased the following authors
and their works:

2012 - Terry Kay’s To Dance With the White Dog

2013 - Ishmael Reed’s New and Collected Poems

2014 - Jill McCorkle’s Creatures of Habit

2015 - Rick Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin’ and Lila Quintero Weaver’s Darkroom: A Memoir in  Black and White

2016 - Ron Rash’s Serena and selected poems from Robert Morgan

This year’s text is Tayari Jones’s Silver Sparrow, an NEA Big Read selection. NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Tayari Jones

Tayari Jones is the author of three novels and numerous short stories, non-fiction, and essays of literary criticism. Jones was born in Atlanta, Georgia, November 30, 1970. She received her B.A. from Spelman College, an M.A. from University of Iowa, and an M.F.A. from Arizona State University. She has won numerous awards, including the Martindale Foundation Award for Fiction, the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation Award, and the Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation scholarship as well as various fellowships and other recognition ("Tayari Jones"). She has taught at Prairie View A&M University, East Tennessee State University, the University of Illinois, and George Washington University ("Biography"). She currently teaches in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University.

"Biography." 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.


Silver Sparrow

Silver Sparrow is "the third in Tayari Jones’s trilogy of Atlanta novels, which began with Leaving Atlanta and moved to The Untelling and is now complete with Silver Sparrow” (Reader's Guide 2). The novel is set in Atlanta, Georgia, during the Reagan years and explores the circumstances and relationships of two young women who share a father but have separate families because, as Dana Lynn says at the very beginning of the novel, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist" ("Books"). Dana and her mother Gwendolyn Yarboro know about their father's other "first" family, but Laverne and Chaurisse are not aware of them. The novel contrasts the lives, experiences, and even the appearances of the two young women as each tries to make sense of her life and her place.


"Books." 2016. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.

Readers Guide to Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. 29 Mar. 2016. PDF file.



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