A feast of fiction, science, poetry, politics and history will once again grace the square in Decatur over Labor Day weekend when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival returns.
On Monday afternoon, organizers of the event — the country’s largest independent book festival — announced the roster of authors scheduled to appear at the three-day marathon. The free festival will draw perhaps 75,000 visitors to downtown Decatur from Sept. 1-3, where they can meet hundreds of writers in every area of contemporary letters.
The keynote event of the 12th annual festival will feature a trio of journalists discussing the state of the Fourth Estate in the era of social media and the 24-hour news cycle.
That panel will include National Public Radio host Brooke Gladstone, co-host of the radio show and podcast “On the Media”; Carolyn Ryan, an editor with The New York Times; and Wesley Lowery, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter from The Washington Post.
Lowery led the Post’s coverage of the events in Ferguson, Mo., and the Black Lives Matter protest movement, and Ryan directed the Times’ political coverage during the 2016 presidential campaign. Kevin Riley, editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, will moderate.
Their conversation kicks off the 2017 festival at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, at Emory University’s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. Distribution of free tickets will be announced later.
The highly anticipated Kidnote event that same night will feature actor and author Henry Winkler — The Fonz from “Happy Days” — and co-author Lin Oliver.
The pair write the “Hank Zipzer” and “Here’s Hank” book series for young readers, which chronicle the adventures of a boy with learning difficulties. Winkler, who grew up with dyslexia, draws on his own life for inspiration.
The Kidnote address takes place at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, at Decatur High School’s Performing Arts Center.
Another star children’s author, Daniel Handler (better known as Lemony Snicket for such children’s books as “A Series of Unfortunate Events”), will introduce “All the Dirty Parts,” a decidedly non-children’s book about the erotic impulses of a young man.
On Sunday, Sept. 3, Atlanta author Carmen Agra Deedy leads the book festival’s parade, celebrating her newest picture book, “The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!”
The festival assembles authors in diverse disciplines, from food writing to molecular biology. Among the notable figures attending are:
- Tom Perrotta, author of “Election” and “Little Children” as well as the hit HBO series “The Leftovers,” who will introduce “Mrs. Fletcher,” a new novel about sex, love and identity.
- Investigative journalist Luke Dittrich, who explores science and ethics in “Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets.” H.M. was Henry Molaison, a Hartford man who suffered from seizures until a lobotomy in 1957 provided relief. The procedure also removed Molaison’s ability to form new memories. Molaison became one of the most studied individuals in medical history, and our understanding of memory owes much to the 12,000 journal articles written on his case. His case also demonstrates the ethical problems that can accompany scientific advance. Dittrich is the grandson of William Scoville, the doctor who performed Molaison’s lobotomy.
- Poet, novelist and essayist Erika L. Sanchez, who shares a poetry collection, “Lessons on Expulsion,” which explores what it means to live on both sides of the border.
- The weekly Longform Podcast sponsors this year’s author track, a DBF tradition in which a guest curator schedules a cluster of writers. Longform will bring Krista Tippett, host of “On Being,” to talk about “Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living.”
The festival offers a deep look at regional issues:
- John T. Edge, director of Southern Foodways Alliance, will show how Southerners shaped American culinary identity and how race relations informed Southern food culture in “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South.”
- Jerry Slater and Sara Camp Milam demonstrate tasty creations from “The Southern Foodways Guide to Cocktails.”
- Culinary historian Toni Tipton-Martin talks with Mashama Bailey of the Grey restaurant in Savannah, who will prepare a recipe from “The Taste of Country Cooking” by the late Edna Lewis.
- In “City on the Verge: Atlanta and the Fight for America’s Urban Future,” author and Atlanta native Mark Pendergrast uses the saga of the Beltline to discuss the fortunes of a city poised between greatness and collapse.
- Decatur resident Thomas Mullen will introduce “Lightning Men,” the follow-up to last year’s “Darktown,” a gritty procedural about race and law enforcement in 1950s Atlanta.
- Daren Wang, the founding executive director of the AJC Decatur Book Festival, launches his debut novel, “The Hidden Light of Northern Fires.”
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