AJC Decatur Book Fest highlights: get ready to book it

Rebekah Hart (right) and her son Jack look at books on Egyptology at one of the booths during last year's AJC Decatur Book Festival. JONATHAN PHILLIPS / SPECIAL

The 10th annual AJC Decatur Book Festival brings more than 600 authors to downtown Decatur on Labor Day weekend, providing an embarrassment of literary riches. All for free.

How is a bibliophile to choose? We’re here to help you focus. Here are a few of the festival’s highlights:

• Erica Jong, the keynote speaker at the 2015 book fest, didn’t exactly start the sexual revolution, but she gave it a boost.

Her 1973 novel, “Fear of Flying,” which followed the ribald adventures of Isadora Wing, put into words what some women were missing in their lives, post consciousness-raising, and gave many the courage to demand more.

Jong’s latest, “Fear of Dying,” catches up with one of Wing’s contemporaries, 40 years later, and gives voice to the predicament of the 60-ish woman in the 21st century.

Jong will appear onstage in conversation with Roxane Gay, author of “Bad Feminist” and Jong’s current counterpart. While Jong may be the superstar (tickets for the event were snapped up in minutes), Gay will hold her own. And Gay also will participate in a panel discussion called the State of Publishing for People of Color.

Keynote speech, 8-10 p.m. Sept. 4. Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, 1700 N. Decatur Road, Atlanta, on the Emory University campus.

The State of Publishing for People of Color, 3-3:45 p.m. Sept. 5. First Baptist Decatur sanctuary, 308 Clairmont Ave., Decatur.

• The food pavilion is at the center of the festival at Ponce De Leon and Clairmont Avenues, and there will be 12 food-related events, including demonstrations, lectures and signings.

Among those events is one in which two of Atlanta’s notable chefs will focus on the plant kingdom, in a presentation called Eat Your Vegetables.

Hugh Acheson is the chef-owner of restaurants in Athens, Atlanta and Savannah, including the Atlanta showplace Empire State South. He is the author of “The Broad Fork: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits.” He will team up with Steven Satterfield, executive chef and co-owner of Miller Union and author of “Root to Leaf: A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons.” Satterfield’s book offers 174 vegetable recipes (for “omnivores”).

10-10:45 a.m. Sept. 5. Food & Cooking Stage, Commerce Drive and Clairmont Avenue, Decatur.

• There are plenty of attractions for youngsters and teens at the festival. Drew Daywalt, (“The Day the Crayons Came Home”) will serve as grand marshall at one of two children’s parades, and Judy Schachner (“Skippyjon Jones” and “Dewey Bob”) will present the Kidnote address.

Older kids will want to visit Victoria Jamieson, author of “Roller Girl,” a graphic novel about the bruising world of middle school roller derby (and middle school emotions). Described by the Chicago Tribune as “[cartoonist] Lynn Johnston, with a modern edge,” Jamieson has an alter ego, a real-life roller girl named Winnie the Pow, who skates with the Rose City Rollers in Portland, Ore. She will be joined onstage by members of the Atlanta Derby Brats, the junior league of the Atlanta Rollergirls.

Noon-12:45 p.m. Sept. 5. Teen Stage, off Church Street, near the MARTA station, Decatur.

• Amy Stewart is the author of a slew of nonfiction books, some of which, such as “The Drunken Botanist” and “Wicked Plants,” have introduced us to the evils of the vegetable kingdom. Her newest work is a novel, “Girl Waits With Gun,” which concerns a 6-foot-tall female deputy sheriff who comes into conflict with a rich silk factory owner. The novel is based on the true story of Constance Kopp, one of the first female deputies in the U.S. Stewart and her husband live in Eureka, Calif., where they own a bookstore called Eureka Books.

Noon-12:45 p.m. Sept. 6. Marriott Conference Center B, 130 Clairmont Ave., Decatur.

• Sara Paretsky changed the world of crime writing with the introduction of a believable, hard-edged female investigator, V.I. Warshawski. Besides breaking new ground in crime fiction, she also helped provide a support network for her colleagues by founding (in 1986) the group Sisters in Crime. “She has really paved the way for female mystery writers and opened so many doors,” said Philip Rafshoon, programming director for the AJC Decatur Book Festival. Paretsky’s newest, “Brush Back,” weaves together Chicago politics and suspense. This is Paretsky’s first appearance at the AJC Decatur Book Festival. Following her appearance, she will hold a reception for teenage girls from Vox, a literary publication created by high school students. It’s part of her campaign to encourage teens to read.

1:45-2:30 p.m. Sept. 5. Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary, 205 Sycamore St., Decatur.

• Samuel R. Delany, 73, is a prolific writer of science fiction and fantasy whose interests have taken some strange turns in his 55-year career. He has taught at Temple University in Philadelphia, written pornography, created comic book story lines, collaborated on graphic novels, lived in a commune and played in a folk band called Heavenly Breakfast. His newest offering is an omnibus packaging of his first three novels under a single cover, “A, B, C: Three Short Novels,” with a new foreword and afterword by the author. He has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and received the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master of Science Fiction Award. This is his first appearance at the AJC Decatur Book Festival.

Noon-12:45 p.m. Sept. 6. Old Courthouse, 101 E. Court Square, Decatur.

• As caregivers in third world countries, Dr. Kent Brantly and his wife, Amber, lived their faith and came close to paying a steep price for their beliefs. Trained at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, Brantly served in Monrovia, Liberia, as a medical missionary from the fall of 2013 to the summer of 2014, just as Ebola began to ravage West Africa. On July 26, 2014, he was diagnosed with the disease, which set off a storm of media attention.

Brantly returned to the U.S. and was treated at Emory University, recovering after 20 days in the hospital. At the festival, he and his wife will discuss their book “Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic.”

12:30-1:15 p.m. Sept. 5. First Baptist Decatur Sanctuary, 308 Clairmont Ave., Decatur.

• In “Bettyville,” veteran magazine writer George Hodgman leaves Manhattan to return to his little hometown, Paris, Mo., to take care of his mother, the eponymous Betty. Two irascible personalities collide. Publishing executive Jamie Brickhouse treads on similar ground in “Dangerous When Wet,” a book about his volatile relationship with his own flamboyant mother, Mama Jean, and his bid to recover from alcoholism. Both men come to terms with their homosexuality — and with their larger-than-life moms — in these candid memoirs.

The book fest has paired the two in a session called Life, Me and Mom.

4:15-5 p.m. Sept. 5, Old Courthouse, 101 E. Court Square, Decatur.

• Dr. Damon Tweedy, an African-American physician trained at Duke University, knows that human beings are not color blind, and neither are the diseases that affect them. His book, “Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflection on Race and Medicine,” looks at the health problems that disproportionately plague the black community, and the societal ills that contribute to that imbalance. He also writes about the prejudice that ghosted his experience as a doctor. Tweedy is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and staff physician at the Durham VA Medical Center.

11:15 a.m.-noon Sept. 5. Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary, 205 Sycamore St., Decatur.

The AJC Decatur Book Festival. Sept. 4-6. Free. Decatur Square and surrounding area. www.decaturbookfestival.com.

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About the Author

Bo Emerson
Bo Emerson
Bo Emerson is an Atlanta native and a long-time AJC feature and news writer.