Every year I look forward to the crisp D.C. autumn weekend that the National Book Festival will fall on. As a DMV native, I’ve been every single year (save for one during a stint living in Mississippi – but my mom still went to get me a poster). While I’ll miss roaming the Pavilion of States and wandering into author talks that lead to discovering new favorite reads, I look forward to tuning into the virtual edition of the festival this weekend. In addition to attending the festival completely virtually, you can also tune in on PBS for highlights and a live broadcast hosted by Hoda Kotb.
As I went to the festival website to make my schedule, I thought I’d share my picks for can’t-miss author talks and Q&A sessions. Despite being virtual, the festival presents the same quality lineup as usual, filled with an amazing, thought-provoking and diverse crop of authors. The Library of Congress (LOC) will also offer a host of diverse Q&A sessions for you to tune into. Author videos will be available on an on-demand basis beginning Friday, September 25 at 9 a.m., and corresponding Q&As vary in time. Be sure to tune into each author’s prerecorded talk before heading into their live Q&A. As always, the event is free.
Though the majority of M.T. Anderson’s body of work is for teens and young adults, that doesn’t make it any less relevant to readers of all ages. Anderson’s novels of dystopia, fantasy and fiction are as captivating as they are challenging, and remain relevant to today’s challenges – namely “Feed,” a world in which everyone is implanted with a feed to stream constant images, ads, entertainment and more to them. Anderson is joined by illustrator Jo Rioux, with whom the author worked with for his latest graphic novel “The Daughter of Ys,” released this summer. Watch the author’s talk anytime after 9 a.m. on Friday and tune into Anderson and Rioux’s live Q&A Saturday at 12 p.m. here.
Haben Girma is the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law, and she now spends her days as a lawyer, author, speaker and disability rights advocate. She wrote a memoir entitled “Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law” about her life experience: growing up the child of Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees, conquering undergrad and eventually Harvard Law, and her mission to create a more inclusive world free of ableism. Watch the author’s talk anytime after 9 a.m. on September 25 and tune into Girma’s live Q&A on September 26 at 1 p.m. here.
D.C. native and author Alaya Dawn Johnson draws on her background studying history to write beautiful historical fiction for teens and adults alike: prose that make readers reflect on their own humanity and the struggles they face as their everyday lives and struggles are reflected back to them on the pages of Johnson’s books. Her most recent work, “Trouble the Saints,” is a timely story of love, war and injustice set in New York City during World War II. Watch the author’s talk anytime after 9 a.m. on September 25 and tune into Johnson’s live Q&A on September 27 at 10 a.m. here.
Poet Saeed Jones and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi will join together to speak about their respective works. Kendi, a professor of history and international relations at D.C.’s own American University is perhaps best known for his most recent book “How to Be an Antiracist,” a title that has become increasingly important as the U.S. grapples with institutionalized racism and police violence. Poet Jones draws on his experiences as a Black gay man in both his poetry and his new memoir “How We Fight for Our Lives.” Watch the author’s talk anytime after 9 a.m. on September 25 and tune into Jones and Kendi’s live Q&A on September 27 at 11 a.m. here.
In addition to prerecorded author talks and live Q&A sessions, don’t miss other live opportunities to engage and learn at the festival. You can chat with a LOC music librarian about their catalogue or even how the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled makes its music collection accessible to all. Learn about copyright with a copyright librarian, or explore collections like the LOC’s African and Middle Eastern collections on social media. These are just the sessions that are up my alley, but be sure to browse through the full schedule as there is truly something for every set of interests this weekend.
The National Book Festival kicks off Friday, September 25 at 9 a.m. Register for free here to create a schedule, access prerecorded author talks, join live Q&A sessions and more. Visit www.nationalbookfestival.com and www.loc.gov for more information. You can also follow along on Twitter and Instagram @librarycongress.
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