Home/Releases/2019 AJC Decatur Book Festival Bookended by PEN America Keynote Panel on Immigration and Appearances by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Philippa Gregory

2019 AJC Decatur Book Festival Bookended by PEN America Keynote Panel on Immigration and Appearances by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Philippa Gregory

Kidnote Featuring Graphic Novels Kicks off Labor Day Weekend Festivities


Atlanta – June 15, 2019 – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival presented by Emory University (DBF) continues its tradition of hosting extraordinary conversations for intellectually curious attendees of all ages with the announcement of a timely Keynote, a fun and interactive Kidnote, and prominent author events at the end. This year’s festival features a lineup of more than 250 authors, poets, historians, scientists, journalists, and chefs who will celebrate books and community this Labor Day weekend, Aug. 30 – Sep. 1, in Decatur.

PEN America Immigration Keynote and Track

In partnership with PEN America, DBF has dedicated its Friday night Keynote and an entire track of author programs to the topic of immigration. Richard Blanco, the fifth person in U.S. history selected to write and deliver an inaugural poem, will be joined by Rigoberto González, author of 17 books of poetry and prose, and Gabriela Baeza Ventura, executive editor of Arte Publico Press. The panel will discuss Latinx writing and immigration, the power of literature to effect change, who gets to call a country home, and the value of providing opportunities for uncensored expression.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the AJC Decatur Book Festival this year to produce important and timely conversations around the topic of immigration,” said Katie Zanecchia, National Outreach Program Director at PEN America. “As an organization working at the intersection of human rights and literature, PEN America believes in the transformative power of the written word and proudly joins DBF in celebrating these authors who are shining a spotlight on an urgent human rights issue of our time.”

Richard Blanco read his poem “One Today” at the inauguration of President Barack Obama on January 21, 2013. He was born to Cuban parents in exile and grew up in Miami. Blanco first presented at DBF in 2013 and returns this year with a new collection of poems, “How to Love a Country.” The collection explores immigration, gun violence, racism, LGBTQ issues, and more, in accessible and emotional verses. He is a distinguished visiting professor at Florida International University.

Rigoberto Gonzalez‘s latest book is the memoir “What Drowns Flowers in Your Mouth.” The son and grandson of migrant farm workers, Gonzalez is a multiple award-winning author and poet, a critic-at-large for The Los Angeles Times, a professor of English at Rutgers-Newark, and a champion of Latinx writers in the U.S.

Gabriela Baeza Ventura represents Arte Publico Press, the oldest publisher of contemporary and recovered Latinx writing in the U.S. Earlier this year, the press was awarded the prestigious Ivan Dandrof Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) for its work as a “literary beacon against anti-immigrant sentiment.”

The DBF-PEN America Keynote panel discussion will take place on Friday, Aug. 30 at 8 p.m. at Emory’s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. Mariela Romero, an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist from Univision Atlanta, will moderate the discussion. Immigration track sessions will happen on Saturday and Sunday of the festival. Free tickets to the Keynote panel discussion will be distributed at a later date.


Graphix Con Kidnote

On Friday, Aug. 30, the Decatur Recreation Center will host its own version of a graphic novel convention. This special DBF Kidnote program will feature activity stations where kids can draw and storyboard their own graphic novels. In a recent analysis of 2018 book sales data, Publishers Weekly determined that graphic novels and comics aimed at kids and teenagers are dominating the graphic novel market—a market that continues to grow in overall popularity. Featured author-presenters for the Kidnote Graphix Con are Kristen Gudsnuk, Matt Holm, Tui Sutherland, and Ru Xu. Details on free Kidnote tickets will be available at a later date.

Kristen Gudsnuk is a comics writer and illustrator. She got her start with the webcomic “Henchgirl,” which Scout Comics later published in a single issue and Dark Horse Comics released as a collection. Her newest works include the middle grade graphic novel “Making Friends” from Scholastic Books, and “Modern Fantasy,” a miniseries from Dark Horse (written by Rafer Roberts). Gudsnuk also illustrated the “VIP” series by Jen Calonita.

Matthew Holm was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and has been drawing comics since he was in middle school. He has collaborated with his sister, Jennifer L. Holm, on three graphic novel series: “Babymouse,” “Squish,” and “Sunny.” Their latest collaboration in the “Sunny” series is “Swing It, Sunny.”

Tui T. Sutherland is author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling “Wings of Fire” series, including the graphic novel adaptations, the “Menagerie” trilogy, and the “Pet Trouble” series. She is also a contributing author to the bestselling “Spirit Animals” and “Seekers” series of books (as part of the Erin Hunter team). In 2009, Sutherland was a two-day champion on Jeopardy!

Ru Xu grew up in Indianapolis and received a degree in Sequential Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She is the creator of the popular webcomic “Saint for Rent.” “NewsPrints” is her first graphic novel series. Xu’s favorite things include historical fiction, fat birds, and coffee-flavored ice cream.


Supreme and Historic Sunday Evening Events to Close Festival

Children’s programming will culminate in a special event on Sunday, Sep. 1, with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at Agnes Scott College’s Gaines Chapel at Presser Hall. Justice Sotomayor, who in 2009 became the first Latina Associate Justice, will share her new children’s picture book, “Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You,” illustrated by award-winning artist Rafael López. In “Just Ask,” Sonia Sotomayor shares her experience as a child who, after being diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, felt different from other kids. She encourages readers to “Just Ask” when they encounter someone who seems different from themselves.

There is no cost to attend the book event. Tickets are required and will be available at a later date. Those wishing to enter the book signing line after the event must have a copy of “Just Ask.”

For adults, DBF welcomes Philippa Gregory, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of “The Other Boleyn Girl” and “The Last Tudor.” A recognized authority on women’s history, Gregory will discuss her latest work of historical fiction, “Tidelands.” Set in England in 1648, when England is in the grip of a civil war between a renegade king and a rebellious parliament, “Tidelands” tells the story of an ordinary woman, Alinor, who is suspected of possessing dark powers. This is a ticketed event that includes the cost of the book signed by Gregory. The “Tidelands” event will conclude the festival at First Baptist Decatur.


About the AJC Decatur Book Festival

Launched in 2006, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival (DBF) presented by Emory University brings more than 250 nationally and internationally known authors, children’s and young adult writers and illustrators, and tens of thousands of readers together for a weekend of fun and discovery. Held every Labor Day weekend in Decatur, Georgia, the DBF is one of the largest independent book festivals in the country. The DBF also sponsors the Decatur Writers Studio. To learn more, visit the new festival website at decaturbookfestival.com.


Media Contact:
Alison Law