ArtsATL > Books > Preview: AJC Decatur Book Festival continues its embrace of literary diversity

Preview: AJC Decatur Book Festival continues its embrace of literary diversity

The AJC Decatur Book Festival takes place over Labor Day weekend.
The AJC Decatur Book Festival takes place over Labor Day weekend.
The AJC Decatur Book Festival takes place over Labor Day weekend.

The AJC Decatur Book Festival, which kicks off with a keynote address by renowned author Joyce Carol Oates on August 29, has always strived to present a varied mix of authors and subjects.

“Each year, we adjust the track list to continue to keep the festival as relevant as possible to today’s readers and today’s world,” says program director Philip Rafshoon.

The nine-year-old event, which continues August 30 and 31 at various venues in and around Decatur Square, stretches even further this year, with six new tracks, or programs.

Global Voices welcomes writers with international ties to South Asia, Africa, Latin America, Australia and the Middle East. The writers, including Sudanese American Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im and Spanish author Andrés Barba, will discuss religion, spirituality, war, relationships and the politics of a hyphenated cultural identity.

Pat Conroy curated a program of southern writers.
Pat Conroy curated a program of southern writers.

Pat Conroy Selects is curated by Pat Conroy, one of the most celebrated sons of southern literature. The author of Prince of Tides and the Lords of Discipline will participate in two panels himself and present several other voices, including Cliff Graubart, who joined forces with Conroy in 1978 to form the Old New York Book Shop Press.

Healthy & Local, which coincides with the debut of the festival’s new cooking stage, will highlight the benefits to community wellness and honor the City of Decatur for being “recognized for both its food scene and as one of the most livable, walkable and environmentally friendly locales in the U.S.,” says Rafshoon.

Romance was planned with assistance from the Georgia Romance Writers, the local chapter of the Romance Writers of America. It will include authors who pen historical romance, fantasy, erotica, contemporary romance and new adult romance (books geared toward readers in their late teens and early twenties). The novels feature tough but fragile heroines, turbulent love and lesbian romance.

Civil War coincides with the sesquicentennial of the 1864 Battle of Atlanta. These nonfiction writers will discuss slavery, treason, the Union siege of Charleston, the Battle of Peachtree Creek and the role of female spies in the War Between the States.

Atlanta Writers Club is Rafshoon’s effort to heighten the visibility and involvement of one of the oldest writers organizations in the country. It will showcase the published works of more than a dozen members of the century-old organization, including panels on memoir, historical fiction, mystery, thrillers, literary and contemporary fiction.


Saturday, August 30

Carmen Agra Deedy
Carmen Agra Deedy

Earlier this year, a grassroots movement demanding more diversity in books exploded on Twitter with the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Authors Cece Bell, Carmen Agra Deedy, Varian Johnson and Andrew Smith will take on this timely topic in a panel entitled “Everybody’s Talking About It: Diversity in Children’s and YA Books.” Decatur Recreation Center Studio, 11:15 a.m.

Matthew Vines advocates for the acceptance of LGBT people within Christian communities and in society at large. In his book God and the Gay Christian, Vines explains how, as a theologically conservative gay Christian, he embarked on an intensive, years-long study of the Bible to discover whether same-sex relationships can be blessed by God. Marriott Conference Center Auditorium, 11:15 a.m.

In his new book, The Latino Generation, Mario T. Garcia presents 13 riveting oral histories of young, first-generation college students countering long-held stereotypes. Eddie’s Attic, 1:45 p.m.

Krista Bremer married an older Muslim man from an impoverished Libyan village and together they raised two children with Arabic names in the American South. Her memoir My Accidental Jihad reveals her own misconceptions and deep-seated assumptions about Muslim culture. City Hall Stage, 4:15 p.m.

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Vijay Seshadri
Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Vijay Seshadri

In Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors, Carolyn Finney explores why African Americans are so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation and environmentalism, arguing that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow and racial violence shape cultural understandings of who should and can have access to natural spaces. City Hall Stage, 5:30 p.m.

Poet Vijay Seshadri, the 2014 Pulitzer Prize–winning author of 3 Collections, and Emory University professor and author of seven collections of poetry Kevin Young will discuss matters of life and death. Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary Stage, 5:30 p.m.

Sunday, August 31

Kazu Kibuishi is the author of the popular graphic novel series Amulet, which revolves around two siblings, Emily and Navin. Kibuishi will launch his sixth book in the series, Escape from Lucien. Teen Stage, noon.

Daron Joffe and Susan Puckett share a recipe from their book Citizen Farmers, which explores how to create sustainable gardens and develop a more holistic, community-minded approach to how food is grown. Springer Mountain Farms Kitchen Stage, Sunday, 3 p.m.

Karen Abbott (Photo by Nick Barose)
Karen Abbott (Photo by Nick Barose)

Journalist Richard Rodriguez, hailed as “one of the most eloquent and probing public intellectuals in America” by the Washington Post, introduces his memoir In Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography, which examines the author’s post 9/11 relationship with God during a time of worldwide religious violence. Old Courthouse Stage, 3:45 p.m.

Best-selling author Karen Abbott introduces four women who served in the Civil War — Confederate courier Belle Boyd, Union soldier Emma Edmonds, Confederate spy Rose Greenhow and Union spy Elizabeth Van Lew — in her latest nonfiction work Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. Decatur Recreation Center Gym, 3:45 p.m.




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