NEA Big Read: Into the Beautiful North

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, all programs and events are suspended. We hope to reschedule them as soon as is safely possible. Stay tuned!

We are thrilled that Chillicothe Public Library has been awarded an NEA Big Read grant to support discussion and public programming around the novel Into the Beautiful North, by Luis Alberto Urrea. Book discussions and other related programs will be scheduled throughout February and March, culminating in an author talk and book signing by Luis Alberto Urrea on Tuesday, March 31.

Pick up a free copy of the book at the library in English or Spanish, and join us as we explore this quirky and compassionate novel that opens the door for conversation on numerous complex and timely topics.

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.

Additional funding for this project comes from Illinois Humanities, which is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Illinois General Assembly, as well as by contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations.


Click here for more titles — fiction and nonfiction for a range of ages — that explore similar themes and topics as those found in Into the Beautiful North: identity, family, love, immigrants, politics, friendship, border-crossing, quests, culture, and more.

Book Discussions

There are several opportunities to chat about Into the Beautiful North with others from the community. No purchase necessary at restaurant-hosted chats, but some venues will have a book-themed special you may want to try!

Sun., Jan 19 @ 2:00 pm – At Peoria Public Library North Branch (3001 W Grand Pkwy, Peoria). Hosted by Peoria Area World Affairs Council.
Mon., Feb 24 @ 6:30 pm – At Chillicothe Public Library.
Wed., Feb 26 @ 11:00 am – At Triple Dipple’s (940 N 2nd St, Chillicothe).
Wed., Mar 4 @ 10:00 am – At Happy Thought Coffee (953 N 2nd St, Chillicothe).
*Thur., Mar 5 @ 6:00 pm – At Casa de Arte (1227 SW Adams St., Peoria), with César Vargas.
Wed., Mar 11 @ 2:00 pm – At El Molcajete (226 N 4th St, Chillicothe).
*Wed., Mar 18 @ 1:00 pm – At Chillicothe Public Library, with Dr. Jennifer Barajas of Bradley University.
*Discusión bilingüe/Bilingual discussion

Programs & Events

All events are free and open to the public and take place at Chillicothe Public Library, unless otherwise noted.

What Everyone Should Know about the Immigration Courts
Wednesday, February 5 at 6:30 pm
Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, will give an educational talk via Skype about the Immigration Courts, explaining key concepts and clarifying common misconceptions.

Spanish Language Conversation Table
Monday, February 10 at 5:00 pm
Monday, March 9 at 5:00 pm
Thur., April 16 @ 5:00 pm

Practice your Spanish vocabulary and conversational skills in a welcoming, casual setting. All levels welcome.

Afternoon Snack @ the Library: Cheese Quesadilla with Guacamole
Tuesday, February 18 @ 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Ages 11-17. Learn to measure, mix, and munch on snacks you make yourself! Ingredients provided. In order to join in the fun, each participant is required to sign and submit a Release and Hold Harmless Agreement, which you can find at, attached to the event on our calendar. Register by February 11.
Ingredients: Corn tortilla, cheddar cheese, colby jack, avocado, onion, tomato, lime, salt, cayenne pepper, cilantro, and garlic. Contains: Dairy and animal products

An Evening at the Cine Pedro Infante: The Magnificent Seven
Tuesday, February 18 @ 6:00 p.m.

Watch the movie that inspired Nayeli’s own quest! Mexican soda and snacks available.

NEA Big Read Kick-off Event
Thursday, February 20 at 6:00 pm

Hosted at IVC High School auditorium
The kick-off celebration will officially open our programming series, introducing the community to the book and to the event line-up for the coming weeks. The spotlight will be on Mexican culture, with performances by Peoria Folklore Ballet and Mariachi Viva Tecalitlan.

Saturday, February 22 at 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Enjoy the warmth and color of a traditional Mexican street market. Chillicothe Public Library’s meeting room will be transformed with art and handicraft vendors, food, and music.

Spanish Story Times
Friday, March 6, 13, 27 at 10:00 am

Ages 0-5. Join Everley Davis of Spanish Circle for a dynamic 30-minute bilingual story time. Read stories, sing songs, make crafts, and play while learning Spanish vocabulary.

The Changing Landscape of the U.S.-Mexico Border
Thursday, February 27 at 6:00 pm
Cristina Urias-Espinoza will share insights on the history of the U.S.-Mexico border, the constantly changing landscape of the area, and its cultural implications. She will present via Skype from Mexico, where she is writing her dissertation as a PhD candidate with the University of Arizona.

Cooking around the World: Mexico
Monday, March 2 at 6:00 pm
Expand your horizons—and your palate! Learn recipes and sample food from Mexico, presented by Yolanda Higgens and Carmen Jenkins. Register by February 24.

Latinos in Illinois and the USA: Music, Cultural History and Communication
Tuesday, March 3 at 6:00 pm

Through images and musical samples, Dr. Catalina Maria Johnson, a Chicago-based journalist, presents a lively exploration of the last 75 years of Latino music in the U.S. as a way of understanding the history, roots, and concerns that informed the songs, from immigrant issues to the murders of student-teachers in Guerrero. Special emphasis will be on Mexican and Puerto Rican musicians in Illinois who have profoundly marked the state’s culture and music. This event is being produced in part by Illinois Humanities Road Scholars Speakers Bureau.

Gender Perspectives in Into the Beautiful North
Thursday, March 5 at 6:00 pm

Using the book Into the Beautiful North as a springboard, Dr. Aurea Toxqui will discuss gender perspectives in Mexican and Hispanic cultures, including generalizations of machismo, the LGBTQ+ community in Mexico, and the range of experiences from big cities to small towns and from region to region.

Transcending Borders with Youth Literature
Friday, March 6 at 11:00 am

Parents, teachers, and other community members are invited to join Dr. Cecile Arquette and Dr. Juan Ríos of Bradley University to explore a variety of books for young people, Pre-K through High School, that engage with themes similar to those in our focus book. This interactive session will focus on books that help readers cross borders both figuratively and in the concrete world, highlighting community development, inclusiveness, immigration experiences, and the importance of listening to people from all walks of life.

25 Texans in the Land of Lincoln
Monday, March 9 at 6:00 pm

In this documentary, 25 history students travel from the Alamo to Springfield, IL to build a Day of the Dead altar honoring Lincoln’s support of Mexico and ask a museum to return Santa Anna’s prosthetic leg. With humor, humility, and animated history lessons, these students, mostly Mexican-American, raise questions of identity, borders, museum ethics, and collective memory. Discussion to follow screening, facilitated by US military historian Victoria Kapanjie-Rians of Bradley University and Angela Weck, Executive Director of Peoria Area World Affairs Council, and Lottie Fiddes, Curator of History at Peoria Riverfront Museum.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 101
Thursday, March 12 @ 6:00 pm
Learn about the history of current immigration law and the hundreds of federal statutes ICE enforces, besides immigration, in this presentation and Q&A by Manda Walters, ICE Community Relations Officer.

Mexican Movie Matinee: La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon)
Friday, March 13 at 1:00 pm
A young Mexican boy travels to the U.S. illegally to find his mother. Shown in Spanish with English subtitles. Rated PG-13.

Migration: A Family’s Story
Monday, March 16 at 6:00 pm
Chillicothe resident Yolanda Higgens shares her family’s story of coming to Chillicothe from Mexico in the railroad days.

Karate: Intro Workshops with Academy of Okinawan Karate
Tuesday, March 24

3:45 p.m.—Age 4-12 (children age 8 & under must be accompanied by an adult)
4:30 p.m.—Age 13-adult
Nayeli’s karate skills help empower her on her quest. Now you can try out this popular martial art with a qualified instructor.

Documentary Screening: Boxcar People
Thursday, March 26 @ 6:00 pm

A special in-person Q & A with the filmmakers will follow a screening of this documentary about Mexican workers recruited in the early 1900s to work the railroads in Galesburg, IL.

An Evening with Luis Alberto Urrea
Tuesday, March 31 at 6:30 pm

Hear from the author of Into the Beautiful North! A book signing and refreshments will follow. A sign language interpreter will be provided. Please register: call 309-274-2719.

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