2019 is the year of the woman. Or so it certainly seems from the line-up for the 28th edition of the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA), taking place across two weeks this year from Oct. 30 to Nov. 18. As always, readings, panels, and author talks represent a broad range of genres and diverse subjects, but for whatever reason, women and women’s issues seem to have taken an especially prominent role in this year’s festival.
“It honestly wasn’t that much by design,” says Festival Director Pam Morton. “But we definitely feel like that’s been a trending topic.”
Each year, organizers take a broad look at authors and titles they think could be a match for Atlanta audiences at the popular annual event. And as Morton suggests, organizers also try to keep an eye on current events and the issues at the center of widespread community conversations. At each festival, certain trends emerge, and the 28th festival shaped up with an extraordinary number of women authors and notable speakers. A headlining appearance by former presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and a talk by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jodi Kantor, whose reports on Harvey Weinstein kicked off the #MeToo movement, will help set the tone.
Clinton will appear at the festival on Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. along with her daughter Chelsea to discuss their new book “The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience” in conversation Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, President and Dean of Morehouse School of Medicine. In their first book together, the mother and daughter co-authors celebrate the women who have inspired them throughout their lives and careers. Profiles include 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, civil rights activist Dorothy Height, writer Rachel Carson, LGBTQ trailblazer Edie Windsor, historian Mary Beard and swimmer Diana Nyad.
One of the most prominent stories involving women in recent years was the news of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and abuse. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jodi Kantor, who along with fellow reporter Megan Twohey broke the story for the New York Times, will discuss the new book “She Said” in conversation with Times Bureau Chief Kim Severson on Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. In the book, Kantor reveals how the two reporters broke the story and also delves into the consequences of reporting on the #MeToo movement, in addition to describing the difficult journeys of the women who spoke up.
Also bound to be popular with festival-goers is the Nov. 17 appearance of Nikki Haley, former Governor of South Carolina and former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, at 7:30 p.m. Haley’s new memoir “With All Due Respect” offers a first-hand perspective and a behind-the-scenes account of her tenure in the Trump administration.
On Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. Pat Mitchell will speak about her book “Becoming a Dangerous Woman.” Mitchell’s book tells the true story of her journey from being raised on a cotton farm in rural Georgia to becoming a prominent TV and film producer and the first female CEO of PBS and president of CNN Productions.
On November 8 at noon, popular New York style icon Tziporah Salamon offers a very different event, a first for the MJCCA Book Fest, a one-woman stage show in which she tells the story of her Hungarian parents who survived the Holocaust by fleeing to Israel, then New York.
One of today’s most acclaimed novelists, Alice Hoffman, speaks about her latest novel “The World That We Knew,” a tale of a mother and daughter that unfolds against the backdrop of Europe during the Nazi regime and World War II, on Nov. 10 at 3:30 p.m. in conversation with writer and former AJC contributor Greg Changnon.
Other notable women authors this year include Bari Weiss, speaking about her new book “How to Fight Anti-Semitism” on Nov. 16 at 8 p.m., and author Heather Morris speaking about the follow-up to her bestselling novel “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” entitled “Cilka’s Journey” on Nov. 4 at noon. Abby Chava Stein will discuss her journey from being born male in a dynastic rabbinical family in a Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn to transitioning to female covered in her book “Becoming Eve” on Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m., and historian Julie Salamon presents her new book about the 1985 terrorist killing of Leon Klinghoffer entitled “An Innocent Bystander” on Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Although women seem to have taken center stage this year, there are still plenty of headlining events by male authors. On Nov. 9 at 8 p.m., former federal prosecutor Preet Bharara discusses his new book on the legal system “Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law” in conversation with Atlanta journalist Bill Nigut. Akbar Gbajabiamila discusses his book about his path to becoming an American Ninja Warrior champion, “Everyone Can Be a Ninja,” on Nov. 3 at 3:30 p.m. with Atlanta media personality Mara Davis. And the festival opens on Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. with television star Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver discussing their new book for middle school kids about a space alien who visits Hollywood.
In all, this year’s Book Festival includes more than 45 authors, and organizers estimate that more than 13,000 people from across the Southeast will come to an event at the book festival.
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