Carol Anderson, Robert Olen Butler featured at Decatur book fest

One-day event will be held at Decatur First Baptist Church Oct. 2.
Carol Anderson is author of "The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unbiased America."
Courtesy of Stephen Nowland

Credit: Stephen Nowland

Combined ShapeCaption
Carol Anderson is author of "The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unbiased America." Courtesy of Stephen Nowland

Credit: Stephen Nowland

Credit: Stephen Nowland

If 2020 was the year of isolation due to the coronavirus, 2021 is shaping up to be the year of caution as we ease back into public spaces.

In that spirit, after going virtual last year, the AJC Decatur Book Festival presented by Emory University (DBF) will be in-person this year, as well as live-streamed. Although programming is less robust than in years past, the one-day event offers bibliophiles face time with several high-profile Southern authors in a COVID-conscious environment.

“We are truly excited to bring back in-person author events for this year’s festival, in addition to live-streaming so that viewers from around the world can tune in,” said board president Mathwon Howard in a public statement.

This year marks DBF’s permanent move from Labor Day weekend to the first Saturday in October. Diverse Voices Building Community is the theme of the six-part program, which will be held Oct. 2 at First Baptist Church of Decatur.

“The featured authors reflect different dimensions of this theme,” said board member and planning committee chairperson Rosemary Magee in an email. “I’m most looking forward to honoring the rich traditions of the festival through an array of voices in conversation with our community of writers and readers.”

Courtesy of Bloomsbury

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

The program features Emory professor Carol Anderson, the New York Times bestselling author of “White Rage,” who will discuss her new book “The Second,” a provocative look at the constitutional right to bear arms and its origins in protecting slavery. “Anderson has a gift for elegant summary. Her writing has clarity of style and a cool zeal, but do not doubt the fire,” writes Jeff Calder in his review of “The Second” for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Also on the program is Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the short-story collection “A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain.” He is promoting his forthcoming novel “Late City,” about a dying journalist’s conversation with God as they review Sam Cunningham’s life and relationships. The saga spans his childhood in Louisiana, his military service in World War I, his newspaper career in Chicago and his complicated role as a father.

Courtesy W.W. Norton

Credit: Courtesy: W.W. Norton

Credit: Courtesy: W.W. Norton

Martin Padgett will talk about his memoir “A Night at the Sweet Gum Head,” which juxtaposes the emergence of gay rights activism with the popularity of drag performances in 1970s Atlanta. “Padgett weaves together these overlapping story lines, while crafting a portrait of the wild and wooly Atlanta of the 1970s, when the crickets of a thousand back yards gave way to the pounding 4/4 beat of Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor,” Bo Emerson writes in the AJC.

Co-writers Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones struck it big in 2019 with their New York Times bestselling novel for young adults, “I’m Not Dying with You Tonight.” They’ll talk about their highly anticipated forthcoming novel “Why We Fly,” about best friends who are forced to navigate the racial divide when their cheerleading squad receives national attention for taking a knee during their season opening football game.

Courtesy of Hub City Press

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Anjali Enjeti, an occasional contributor to the AJC and author of the novel “The Parted Earth,” will join Emory professor Tiphanie Yanique, author of the forthcoming novel “Monster in the Middle,” on a literary fiction panel to talk about their books that both span generations and the globe.

And a children’s picture book panel will bring together “The Children’s Moon” author Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrator Jim LaMarche with Laura Freeman, who illustrated “Standing on Her Shoulders: A Celebration of Women,” written by Monica Clark-Robinson.

Adding to the festivities will be six book sellers and a variety of food vendors on the church grounds.

Events will be held in the sanctuary, which has a maximum capacity of 1,000. But COVID-19 protocol will limit capacity to 500 or less to allow for social distancing. Masks will also be required. Magee said there may be a ticketing or registration procedure put in place to manage audience size. Nevertheless, all events are free.

David Jordan, pastor of First Baptist Church of Decatur, cautioned that plans could change, depending on CDC guidelines due to the delta variant of COVID-19.

DBF is part of a four-pronged extravaganza billed as Festival Weekend. In addition to the book festival, the town will host the Decatur Arts Festival Oct. 2-3, the Decatur Craft Beer Festival Oct. 2 and the Amplify Decatur Music Festival Oct. 1-2.


AJC Decatur Book Festival presented by Emory University. Oct. 2. Free. Decatur First Baptist Church, 308 Clairmont Ave., Decatur. 678-570-2041,

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