Bookshelf: Literary fest celebrates marginalized Southern writers

Plus GAYA names 2023 nominees, and a Nashville murder gets scrutinized.
William Gay is one the authors celebrated by Revival: Lost Southern Voices, a literary festival.
Courtesy of Revival: Lost Southern Voices

Credit: Revival: Lost Southern Voices

Credit: Revival: Lost Southern Voices

William Gay is one the authors celebrated by Revival: Lost Southern Voices, a literary festival. Courtesy of Revival: Lost Southern Voices

One of the highlights of this year’s Revival: Lost Southern Voices literary festival is a panel discussion and an exhibition on William Gay, a Grit Lit writer from Tennessee whose literary career spanned just 13 years before he died in his early 70s in 2012. But his canon continues to grow posthumously thanks to a devoted group of writers and scholars called Team Gay who have edited and published four of his novels and a short story collection discovered in the writer’s attic.

Panelists for The Literary Landscape of Author/Artist William Gay: A Conversation with Team Gay features authors George Singleton, Dawn Major and Michael White in a conversation moderated by Jon Sokol.

In addition, the Decatur Library hosts “Mystery Outside the Frame: The Literary Landscape of William Gay,” an exhibition of 20 paintings by the self-taught artist, as well as artifacts including his typewriter and a manuscript with notations by Cormac McCarthy in the margins.

Presented by GSU Perimeter College and Georgia Center for the Book, Revival: Lost Southern Voices will be held March 22-25. Events taking place on the first and last days of the festival will be held in person at the Decatur Library, and all events can be streamed live on Zoom. Find more info at

Untitled (train trestle) is one of the paintings by William Gay on exhibit at the Decatur Library.
Courtesy of Revival: Lost Southern Voices

Credit: Revival: Lost Southern Voices

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Credit: Revival: Lost Southern Voices

Now in its seventh year, Revival: Lost Southern Voices is designed to celebrate marginalized Southern writers.

“A lost voice is somebody who has been pushed out for some reason, and it’s the usual culprits, unfortunately. It’s usually due to gender or race or class or lack of education or lack of connections or their work is just too progressive for its time,” said festival director Gina Flowers.

“I’m reminded of an author we highlighted a couple of years ago, Lillian Smith, who died in 1966,” said Flowers. “She lived a taboo, mostly secret homosexual lifestyle in North Georgia in the ‘50s and ‘60s. She also wrote about interracial romance in her 1944 debut novel ‘Strange Fruit.’ These ideas were just a little too progressive, a little too ahead of their time, and we feel she didn’t get the attention that she deserved then, and that is one reason we highlight and celebrate these authors.”

The festival kicks off with a keynote event featuring author Maryemma Graham, who will speak on her book “The House Where My Soul Lives: The Life of Margaret Walker” with Pearl McHaney. Walker was an African American poet and novelist from Alabama who flourished during the Chicago Black Renaissance.

Another festival highlight is the panel Claiming “Our Own Literary Ancestry”: Honoring Our Mentors.

“That’s going to be a really powerful panel,” said Flowers. “Rosalind Bentley is going to talk about Valerie Boyd, who we lost last February in 2022.”

Boyd was the author of “Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston” and edited “Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker 1965-2000.”

Flowers recalled that at the inaugural Revival: Lost Southern Voices in 2017, Boyd, a “longtime friend” of the festival, spoke about choosing one’s own literary kin, saying she felt like she was the literary granddaughter of Zora Neale Hurston and that Alice Walker was “her favorite auntie.”

“That really stuck with me, the idea that you do get to choose your literary influences. She said it’s not just recognizing that, it was ‘claiming your literary ancestry’ — and that’s the title of our panel,” said Flowers.

The mentors panel includes Allen Gee speaking on James Alan MacPherson, and Caleb Johnson speaking on Brad Watson, with Teresa Weaver moderating.

Admission to the festival is free, whether you attend the live events or watch the whole thing on Zoom. But registration is required. For information go to

GAYA noms are in. Nominees for the 2023 Georgia Author of the Year Awards have been announced. Competing in 15 categories ranging from first novel, literary fiction and biography/memoir to young adult, cookbook and Inspirational are 148 titles submitted for consideration by publishers and authors.

This year marks a return to including self-published books in the competition. Executive Director Garrard Conley noted that roughly the same number of traditionally published books were submitted this year as in 2022.

Winners will be selected by the previous year’s winners and will be announced virtually June 10 on Facebook and YouTube, but look for a list of finalists to be revealed sometime before that. To see a full list of nominees, go to

Courtesy of Green House Press

Credit: Green House Press

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Credit: Green House Press

True crime. Atlanta author Martha Smith Tate, a former columnist and features writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 22 years, has self-published “The Last Ride” (Green House Press, $28.99), a narrative non-fiction account of a murder that gripped Nashville in the late ‘60s. The victim was Haynie Gourley, a well-to-do owner of a Chevrolet dealership and the father of Tate’s close friend. She’s been haunted by the murder ever since, as well as the questionable judicial outcome, and she finally decided to put her journalism skills to work to tell the real story of what happened. The result is a well-crafted page-turner that has Nashville all abuzz. It’s only been out a few months, and it’s already sold more than 4,000 copies.

Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic and contributing editor The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. You can contact her at