The Southern Festival of Books is October 14-16! This year's festival is in-person and takes place at Nashville Public Library and War Memorial Auditorium. It is free and open to the public.
Friday, October 14
On Friday at noon, there are two Nashville-centric sessions:
12:00 In Conversation: Justin Jones, Chris Joyner, Thomas E. Ricks
Justin Jones is a local activist who was one of the leaders of the protests for racial justice on Legislative Plaza in the summer of 2020 (and is now running uncontested for the Tennessee House of Representatives District 52). He will be discussing his book about the experience, The People’s Plaza, in conversation with Chris Joyner (The Three Death Sentences of Clarence Henderson: A Battle for Racial Justice at the Dawn of the Civil Rights Era) and Thomas E. Ricks (Waging a Good War: A Military History of the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1968).
12:00 Alex Jahangir
Alex Jahangir was the head of the Metro Nashville COVID-19 Task Force. Hot Spot: A Doctor's Diary from the Pandemic, is his account of the first year of the pandemic.
1:30 Katharine Burnett
On a more lighthearted note, Katherine Burnett will discuss The Tacky South, eighteen essays on Southern pop culture.
Saturday, October 15
10:30 Tara Stringfellow
In Memphis, based on her own family history, Tara Stringfellow tells the story of a Memphis family over three generations. Library Journal recommended it “for anyone who appreciates Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, or Gloria Naylor.”
11:30 Megan Giddings
The Women Could Fly, a feminist dystopian novel, has drawn comparisons to Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler.
12:00 In Conversation: Jami Attenberg, Isaac Fitzgerald, Maud Newton
This is a powerhouse session that brings together three memoirists: Jami Attenberg for I Came All This Way to Meet You, Isaac Fitzgerald for Dirtbag, Massachusetts, and Maud Newton for Ancestor Trouble.
1:00 Joshua Cohen
Congratulations to the Festival for getting this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner! The Netanyahus is a comedic campus novel about the Jewish-American experience, using a blend of fact and fiction.
1:30 Andrew Sean Greer
Speaking of the Pulitzer, Andrew Sean Greer is here to discuss Less Is Lost, his follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Less.
3:00 Patrick Radden Keefe
Patrick Radden Keefe is best known for Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland and Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, but he will be discussing his recent collection Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks. Rogues is a great introduction to his work and is recommended for fans of David Grann’s The Devil and Sherlock Holmes.
4:00 Lee Cole
One of my favorite books of the year, Groundskeeping is an extremely authentic Southern fiction debut from native Kentuckian Lee Cole. The Washington Post says,
Groundskeeping is not only the story of a young man finding his vocation as a writer, but also a wrenching examination of class differences, that third-rail topic in American literature, and of our current political polarization, which the narrator addresses with an unusual amount of empathy for the side he opposes.
Sunday, October 16
12:00 Margo Price
2:00 In Conversation: Marissa R. Moss, Francesca Royster
On Sunday, it’s country music all the time: Margo Price with her new memoir Maybe We’ll Make It at noon, and then a conversation between Marissa R. Moss and Francesca Royster at 2:00. Moss wrote Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be, which focuses on Kacey Musgraves, Mickey Guyton, and Maren Morris. Royster is the author of Black Country Music: Listening for Revolutions, the first book on Black country music by a Black writer.
1:30 In Conversation: Lydia Conklin, Z. Zane McNeill, Casey Parks
At 1:30, an LGBTQ+-centric session includes Casey Parks, whose Diary of a Misfit is a Southern memoir wrapped in a mystery and is another of my favorites of the year. She will be joined by Lydia Conklin, author of the short story collection Rainbow Rainbow, and Z. Zane McNeill, author of Y’all Means All: The Emerging Voices Queering Appalachia.