Decatur Book Festival announces keynote speaker, author lineup

Pete Souza, Saeed Jones, Roshani Chokshi among participating authors.

Pete Souza, former Chief White House photographer during the Obama and Reagan administrations, will be the keynote speaker at the 17th annual Decatur Book Festival on Sept. 30 at First Baptist Church of Decatur.

The New York Times bestselling author of “Obama: An Intimate Portrait” publishes a new book this fall titled “The West Wing and Beyond: What I Saw Inside the Presidency.” A frequent public speaker and the subject of the 2020 documentary film “The Way I See It,” Souza began his career as a newspaper photographer and was a freelancer for Life and National Geographic.

The keynote event, which is free but ticketed through Eventbrite beginning Aug. 29, is funded by a grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts.

Souza’s appearance is the official kick off for the festival, which takes place Saturday, Oct. 1., at First Baptist Church of Decatur. The event will feature 16 panels, eight on the children’s stage outside and eight for adult audiences inside. Masks and proof of COVID-19 vaccination are required for indoor events.

Participating authors include Saeed Jones, whose memoir “How We Fight for Our Lives,” won the 2019 Kirkus Prize for nonfiction. His new collection of poetry, “Alive at the End of the World,” comes out Sept. 13. He’ll be on the Poets Through the Mirror of Memoir panel with Kendra Allen, winner of the 2018 Iowa Prize for Literary Nonfiction and author of the new memoir “Fruit Punch,” and Pushcart Prize winner Ravi Shankar, author of the memoir “Correctional.” Atlanta author Denene Millner moderates.

Mike Luckovich, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and author of “The Twisted History of the GOP,” joins AJC reporters and authors Greg Bluestein (“Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power”) and Ernie Suggs (“The Many Lives of Andrew Young”) on the Georgia Politics Past & Present panel. Robin Morris, associate professor at Agnes Scott College and author of “Goldwater Girls to Reagan Women,” moderates.

On the children’s stage, the I Love Graphic Novels panel features local New York Times bestselling author Roshani Chokshi, who wrote the young adult fantasy novels “The Star-Touched Queen,” “The Gilded Wolves” and “Aru and the End of Time.” She’ll be joined by John Patrick Green (“InvestiGators: Heist and Seek”) and Justin A. Reynolds (“Miles Morales: Stranger Tides”). Preeti Chhibber, author of “Spider-Man’s Social Dilemma,” moderates.

Credit: Kay Hinton

Credit: Kay Hinton

It’s an all-Atlanta lineup on the I Have a Fiction Addiction panel. It includes Tiphanie Yanique (“Monster in the Middle”), Jackson Pearce (“Six Ways to Write a Love Letter”) and Ann Hite (“Haints on Black Mountain: A Haunted Short Story Collection”). Teresa Weaver, former book editor for the AJC, moderates.

Cookbook authors Jessica Formicola (“Beef It Up”), Julia Skinner (“Our Fermented Lives: A History of How Fermented Foods Have Shaped Cultures & Communities”) and Judith McLoughlin (“A Return to Ireland: A Culinary Journey from America to Ireland”) will dish about food on the A Book Buffet: A Culinary Arts Panel.

Other participating authors include Vanessa Riley (“Murder in Westminster”), former WSB-TV news anchor Mark Pruitt (“Tell It True”), Lo Patrick (“The Floating Girls”) and Carmen Agra Deedy (“Wombat Said Come In”).

For details go to