U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and best-selling historical novelist Philippa Gregory are among the more than 250 authors appearing on 13 stages during the 14th annual AJC Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day weekend.
Sotomayor will present her forthcoming children’s book “Just Ask!,” about making friends with people with different physical capabilities at Presser Hall on the Agnes Scott campus in a free but ticketed event Sunday afternoon.
Best-selling author Gregory will present her new, 17th-century novel “Tidelands” at First Baptist Decatur Sunday evening. Gregory’s appearance marks the festival’s first ever pay event. Tickets are $30 and include a copy of the book.
“We struggle to maintain ourselves financially,” said Joy Pope, the festival’s new programming director, who replaced Julie Wilson, now festival director. “In order to get somebody that’s kind of a big name like that, I have to promise a certain number of books have to be sold, so I promised 250. We’ve already sold about 150, so I think were’ in good shape for that.”
Gregory’s event isn’t the festival’s only pay event, though. “Improv Gets Lit” at Dad’s Garage on Friday night features “The New Pie” authors Paul Arguin and Chris Taylor and “Unladylike” authors Caroline Ervin and Christen Conger reading excerpts from their books, which improv artists will riff off of. Tickets are $15.
Pope’s goal this year was to create more partnerships with other businesses and organizations to help fund some of the festival’s events. She’s particularly pleased to be collaborating with free-speech nonprofit PEN America on this year’s keynote event on immigration at the Emory Schwartz Center Friday night, featuring poets Richard Blanco and Rigoberto González, and Gabriela Baeza Ventura, executive editor of Arte Publico Press. The partnership also led to a weekend-long track of programming on immigration.
“It feels like if you could start at 10 o’clock Saturday morning and follow this thread until 5 o’clock on Sunday, you could become a better person, you will be more empathetic,” said Pope.
Special events aside, the heart and soul of the book festival is its plethora of panels and presentations by authors of all stripes taking place throughout Saturday and Sunday during the Street Fair. Highlights include:
Sarah M. Brown. The AJC, the LA Times and the New York Times can’t all be wrong. All three publications gave Broom’s debut “The Yellow House” glowing reviews for her memoir about growing up in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina. She joins “Ladysitting” author Loreen Cary on a panel called Bearing Witness to Generations. 5:30 p.m. Saturday, DeKalb Historic Courthouse
Casey Cep. Cep talks with AJC editor and author Shannon McCaffrey about her debut “Furious Hours,” her critically acclaimed, nonfiction account of Harper Lee’s final, abandoned book project about an alleged serial killer. 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Marriott Conference Center
Madeline Ffitch. An unconventional family living off the grid in Appalachia is confronted by outside influences in Ffitch’s highly original debut novel, “Stay and Fight.” She’s paired with Tupelo Hassman, author of “Gods with a Little G” about a high school teen living in a community so remote, her only source for knowledge about the outside world is a call-in radio show from a nearby town. 1:45 p.m. Saturday, Marriott Conference Center
James Verini. Authors George Packer and Jonathan Franzen have heaped high praise on Verini’s forthcoming book, “They Will Have To Die Now,” calling it “bleakly funny and unbearably sad” and “a thing of terrible beauty.” Reported from the front lines of the Battle of Mosul between the Islamic State, the Iraqi government and members of the Kurdish militia, the book is also about “the effects of America’s idea of itself on the world, and on history, and vice versa,” says Verini. He’ll be interviewed by Evan Ratliff, cofounder of Atavist magazine. 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary.
Ocean Vuong. Whiting Award and T.S. Eliot Prize winning poet Vuong, presents his debut novel “On This Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” that explores a Vietnamese family’s history and issues of race, class and masculinity in the form a letter from a son to his single mother who can’t read. Vuong and “Patsy” author Nicole Dennis-Benn talk about characters who make sacrifices for love. Noon Sunday, Marriott Conference Center.
Atlanta authors shine at book fest
An extraordinary number of Atlanta authors published books in 2019, so expect to see a lot of familiar faces on festival panels this year. Here are some we recommend.
Emory professor Carol Anderson, author of best-selling “White Rage,” talks about her forthcoming book, “One Person, No Vote,” about voter suppression. AJC reporter Rosalind Bentley moderates. 4:15 p.m. Saturday, Decatur Presbyterian.
Jim Auchmutey discusses “Smokelore,” his ode to barbecue, with former AJC food editor Susan Puckett. 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Culinary Stage.
Poet Jericho Brown reads from “The Tradition,” along with poet Lauren K. Alleyne. 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Decatur Presbyterian.
Novelists Patti Callahan Henry (“The Favorite Daughter”) and Zoe Fishman (“Invisible as Air”) join Katherine Center (“Things You Save in a Fire”) to talk about character development. 3 p.m. Saturday, First Baptist Decatur, Carreker Hall.
Novelists Lynn Cullen (“The Sisters of Summit Avenue”), Soniah Kamal (“Unmarriageable”) and Anissa Gray (“The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls”) discuss family and identity. Noon Sunday, First Baptist Decatur, Carreker Hall.
Novelist Jessica Handler (“The Magnetic Girl”) joins “Weather Woman” author Cai Emmons on a panel about Women Wielding Power moderated by Atlanta author Stacia Pelletier. Noon Sunday, Marriott Conference Center.
New York Times best-selling author Joshilyn Jackson reads and discusses her ninth novel, “Never Have I Ever.”11:15 a.m. Saturday, First Baptist Decatur, Carreker Hall.
Poets Collin Kelley, Karen Head and Dan Veach read from their new collections and discuss the legacy of the Atlanta Review, celebrating its 25th anniversary. 10 a.m. Saturday, Marriott Conference Center.
Middle-grade book authors Laurel Snyder (“My Jasper June”), Jess Redman (“The Miraculous”) and Lamar Giles (The Last-Last-Day-of-Summer”) talk about their new books on a panel moderated by author Terra McVoy. 3:15 p.m. Saturday, Children’s Stage, Decatur Recreation Center.
2014 Teacher of the Year Megan Volpert (“Boss Broad”) joins Matthew Terrell (“The Magnolia Bayou Country Club Ladies Auxiliary Cooking and Entertaining Book”) discuss blending genres. 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Marriott Conference Center.
Susan Rebecca White, author of the Atlanta-based novel “We Are All Good People Here,” joins Louisa Treger (“Dragon Lady”) on a panel moderated by Atlanta author Julia Franks. 10 a.m. Saturday, Decatur Library.
Novelists Snowden Wright (“American Pop”) and Jason Allen (“The East End”) join Tim Murphy (“The Correspondents”) in a discussion about the American Dream moderated by novelist Christopher Swann. 3 p.m. Saturday, Marriott Conference Center.
AJC Decatur Book Festival. Aug. 30-Sept. 1. Various locations. www.decaturbookfestival.com
Street Fair. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Free. Various stages downtown Decatur.
Keynote. “Effecting Change in a Changing World: Latinx Writers on Immigration.” 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30. Free, ticket required. Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, 1700 N. Decatur Road, Atlanta. tickets.arts.emory.edu.
Improv Get Lit.8 p.m. Friday. $15.50-20.50. Dad’s Garage, 569 Ezzard St., Atlanta. 404-523-3141, dadsgarage.com
Sonia Sotomayor. 4 p.m. Sunday. Free, ticket required. Agnes Scott College, Presser Hall, 141 E. College Ave., Decatur. www.eventbrite.com
Philippa Gregory. 6:45 p.m. Sunday. $30, includes book. First Baptist Decatur, 308 Clairemont Ave., Decatur. Advance tickets available through Eagle Eye Books, 404-486-0307, www.eagleeyebooks.com. Tickets also available at the door until sold out.
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