Mini memoirs: 5 excerpts from authors at AJC Decatur Book Festival

Check out these mini excerpts from memoir authors appearing at the AJC Decatur Book Festival Labor Day weekend.

Harrison Scott Key’s “The World’s Largest Man” (Harper)

I blame my mother, who introduced me to the perverse habit of reading through the gateway drug of encyclopedias, which she begged my father to purchase from a man at the door, hoping to counterbalance our growing knowledge of firearms and axes and tractors with more peaceful, productive knowledge that could be found in the “World Book,” such as a list of the major exports of Bolivia, which she felt would help us in our lives, should we end up in Bolivia at some point in the future and need to barter for tungsten, which is just one major export of Bolivia. 11:15 a.m., Sat., Sept. 5, Decatur City Hall.

Sarah Hepola’s “Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget” (Grand Central)

One night Dave and I were walking across the near-empty gardens of an Oktoberfest. I was drunk. (Of course I was always, always drunk.) A 70-year-old man in lederhosen approached us, bent like a candy cane, and I lifted up my shirt and flashed my bra. No warning, no prompting. Just: So wrong.

Dave almost fell to the cement he was laughing so hard. I got so high capsizing him this way. Because if I couldn’t be the girl he loved – that would be roommate, Tara – then I needed to be the girl who brought him to his knees. 11:15 a.m., Sat. Sept. 5, Decatur Recreation Center Studio.

Jessica Handler’s “Invisible Sisters” (UGA Press)

Sarah knew from childhood that her illness put our family under strain. She saw this in our parents’ stress. She saw this in the bills that came in the mail. Every school day she missed – and she missed weeks at a time – and every slumber party or school dance she couldn’t attend made her feel different, and perhaps diminished. I went away to college, yet she was unable to finish. She was often nauseated from medication, and sore from infections and incisions. Sarah may have felt that our father’s leaving, and even mine, was because of her. Her worry was one more thing we didn’t discuss as a family. Like me, she kept her fears to herself. 10 a.m. Sat., Sept. 5, First Baptist Decatur Carreker Hall

David Payne’s “Barefoot to Avalon” by David Payne (Atlantic Monthly Press)

And here he is, my smart good-looking brother, drinking and getting high with me at 9:30 in the morning. Just off his job on the Kill Devil Hills Sanitation truck, in a week he’s heading back to school to try out for the varsity. Woodberry Forest, the place our parents once upon a time suggested wasn’t good enough for me, is good enough for him, apparently, because that’s where he’ll be playing football if he makes it. Strange though, isn’t it, I get Exeter, and there he sits with the Gibson I could never ask for, and on his finger, Pa’s gold signet, which Margaret gave him though I was the oldest. 10 a.m. Sat., Sept. 5, First Baptist Decatur Carreker Hall

George Hodgman’s “Bettyville” (Viking)

In the mornings my mother stands at the window in the dining room, where the silver is tarnished now, in front of a wicker stand where she once kept geraniums, gazing out at the roses for as long as she can bear to stand up. Her face in the pane is like streaks of a watercolor. Even though she is old, I think she is more beautiful than ever, softer. You would never guess her age until she speaks. I do my best to make sure that when she looks in the mirror, there is someone who is familiar though sometimes nothing else is. When dealing with older women, a trip to a hairdresser and two Bloody Marys goes further than any prescription drug. 4:15 p.m. Sat., Sept. 5, Old Courthouse

Check out more memoirs on the festival’s Personal Journeys track at

Also, Must-See Highlights and an interview with keynote speaker Erica Jong.

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