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Festival Highlights

Welcome to the 2016 AJC Decatur Book Festival (DBF)! In our 11-year history, we’ve worked to provide an inspiring mix of authors whose myriad voices provide different perspectives and impart knowledge that enable us to expand our horizons. This year, we’ve taken programming back to its roots, with a goal of highlighting local and regional authors who are helping to shape the writing community here while impacting the national literary scene.

2016 Keynote — The Life and Works of Pat Conroy

The festival opens with The Life and Works of Pat Conroy, a tribute to the bestselling and beloved author who died in March 2016. The sold-out event takes place on Friday, September 2 at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts at Emory University. Family and friends will share special memories of Conroy and read favorite passages from his many books. The remembrance will be led by Cassandra King Conroy, Conroy’s wife and author of five novels, Pulitzer Prize-winning Rick Bragg, whose All Over but the Shoutin’ was a New York Times bestseller and notable book of the year; noted artist and children’s author Melissa Conroy, Conroy’s daughter; award-winning and bestselling author Ron Rash, author of novels Serena, Above the Waterfall and The Risen, and award-winning journalist and family friend Bronwen Dickey, author of Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon.

Personal Journeys

Our Personal Journeys track celebrates memoirs and works of narrative nonfiction. Rob Spillman, editor of the influential literary magazine Tin House, reads from his memoir All Tomorrow’s Parties, which narrates a colorful coming-of-age portrait of an artist’s life that is also a cultural exploration of a shifting Berlin. Sil Lai Abrams and Cecily McMillan share their respective experiences as social activists. Jaime Primak Sullivan, star of Bravo TV’s Jersey Belle, brings Southern Education of a Jersey Girl: Adventures in Life and Love in the Heart of Dixie. In Waking the Spirit, Andrew Schulman recounts his story of a critically ill musician who is saved by music and returns to the same hospital to help heal others.

Alexander Chee Selects

2016 marks the third year for the author-curated track, sponsored by MailChimp. The handpicked selections bring a freshness and diversity of ideas, experiences and viewpoints to the DBF. This year, Alexander Chee picks his dream team that represents myriad voices in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The talented line-up includes exciting new fiction voices Kaitlyn Greenidge, Rumaan Alam, Idra Novey, Samantha Hunt, and Sunil Yapa. Garrard Conley and Kiese Laymon share their respective experiences about identity and family. In her book Witches of America, Alex Mar illuminates the world of witchcraft. In All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, award-winning journalist Rebecca Traister provides a remarkable development of contemporary American life through the lens of the single American woman. And award-winning poet Tyehimba Jess brings his new collection, Olio.


Partnering with the Atlanta Science Tavern, the DBF continues to bring fascinating science topics to the festival. Frans de Waal, Emory University professor and the director of the Living Links Center of Emory’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center, offers Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? Emory University professor Ken Ono examines one of the most brilliant mathematical minds with My Search for Ramanujan: How I Learned to Count. Former NPR science reporter Frank Browning brings The Fate of Gender: Nature, Nurture, and the Human Future, which explores the fast-changing global landscape of gender today. Authors Jon Willis (All These Worlds Are Yours: The Scientific Search for Alien Life) and Priyamvada Natarajan (Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas that Revealed the Cosmos) look differently at the stars, the universe, and the search for alien life. And Lydia Pyne examines the importance of human fossils in Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World’s Most Famous Human Fossils while Elizabeth Reitz and Martha Zierden understand cultural history with Charleston: An Archaeology of Life in a Coastal Community.


Poetry has always been a highlight of the DBF and the 2016 line-up doesn’t disappoint. Considered one of the leading poets of his generation, Kevin Young, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Creative Writing and English at Emory University and the Curator of Emory’s Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, will read from Blue Laws: Selected and Uncollected Poems, 1995-2015. Talented emerging and established poets Derrick Austin, Richie Hofmann, Emily Leithauser, James Davis May, Sandra Meek, and Thomas Lux read from their respective collections that offer different perspectives of the human condition and experience. National Book Award finalist Monica Youn reads from her acclaimed new collection Blackacre. And David Kirby examines our extraordinarily human condition through the lens of our ordinary daily lives in his collection Get Up, Please.


The History track, sponsored by the Atlanta History Center, continues to expose us to interesting stories from our past. Award-winning poet and Atlanta-area native Patrick Phillips launches Blood at the Root, a sweeping American tale that spans centuries of racial injustice in Forsyth County, Georgia. Co-author Michael Graetz examines the Warren Burger Supreme Court in The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right, which finds that it was a conservative court that still defines the constitutional landscape we live in today. Journalist and author Laurence Leamer brings The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan, which tells the true story of a brutal race-based killing in 1981 and the subsequent trials that undid the Ku Klux Klan. In The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship, Patricia Bell-Scott tells the story of how a brilliant writer-turned-activist and granddaughter of a mulatto slave forged an enduring relationship with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, which changed each of their lives and helped alter the course of race and racism in America. James Lee McDonough introduces a controversial historical figure in the biography William Tecumseh Sherman. And George S. Hart, Sonny Seals (Historic Rural Churches of Georgia) and William Ferris (The South in Color) take us on a visual tour of the people and places that define the South.

Cooking & Food

The DBF continues to celebrate the art, science and wonder of food in publishing, highlighted by the stage’s new location on the MARTA plaza. James Beard Award-winner and noted bread authority Peter Reinhart talks about mastering the art of breadmaking. Grilling expert Meathead Goldwyn demos from Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling. James Beard Award-winning Cynthia Graubart launches Chicken, which packs all the know-how that cooks need to make irresistible chicken dishes. Robin Ha utilizes her skill as a comic artist to introduce us to Korean food in Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes. Ronni Lundy explores Appalachia with Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes. Noted canning expert Marisa McClellan guides home canners on how to enjoy the flavors of the season without refined sugars in Naturally Sweet Food in Jars. James Beard Award-winning writer Rien Fertel chronicles the uniquely southern art of whole hog barbecue in The One True Barbecue: Fire, Smoke, and the Pitmasters Who Cook the Whole Hog. Robert F. Moss and Fred Minnick talk about bourbon and Southern spirits, while Anne Byrn discusses the fascinating history of cakes in her book American Cake. The DBF is launching a celebration of legacy cookbooks, recognizing those cooks who defined or changed the way we understand and cook food. Noted culinary journalist Ted Lee will talk with James Beard Award semi-finalist Todd Richards, executive chef at White Oaks Kitchen & Cocktails, who will demo from The Taste of Country Cooking by the late Edna Lewis, who inspired a generation of young chefs and ensured traditional Southern foods and preparations would live forever.

Civil & Human Rights

The Civil & Human Rights track provides an opportunity to examine the painful civil injustices in our country and abroad. Emory University professor Carol Anderson presents White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. Based on her remarkable op-ed in The Washington Post following the 2014 events in Ferguson, Missouri. In Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality, investigative journalist Debbie Cenziper and plaintiff Jim Obergefell tell the story of the lovers, lawyers, judges, and activists behind the groundbreaking Supreme Court case that led to one of the most important national civil rights victories in decades. In Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World, journalist and professor Baz Dreisinger travels behind bars in nine countries to rethink the state of justice in a global context. Bernard Edward Powers, Jr. and Marjory Wentworth recount the tragic events of June 17, 2015, in We Are Charleston: Tragedy and Triumph at Mother Emanuel. And in The Voting Rights War: The NAACP and the Ongoing Struggle for Justice, Gloria Browne-Marshall takes an in-depth look at the ongoing struggle to achieve voting equality.


Acclaimed New York Times bestselling and National Book Award-winning author, Jacqueline Woodson, brings Another Brooklyn, her first adult novel in 20 years, which examines how friendships change over time. Award-winning author Ron Rash returns to launch The Risen, a tale of two brothers whose lives are altered irrevocably by the events of one long-ago summer. Ann Hood will present The Book That Matters Most, which follows a mother’s mission to find an important book from her childhood and its author, taking her on a quest that unravels the secrets of her past and offers a chance to remake lives. New York Times bestselling author Emily Giffin brings First Comes Love, a story about family, friendship and the courage to follow your own heart. New York Times bestselling author Carolyn Parkhurst introduces Harmony, a taut, emotionally wrenching story of how a seemingly “normal” family can become desperate enough to leave everything behind and move to a “family camp” in New Hampshire. Debut authors Nicole Dennis-Benn and Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes provide their perspectives on freedom and love in a foreign country.

Mystery & Thriller

The New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer presents his latest thriller, The House of Secrets, following Hazel Nash, who has to solve a murder and discover her father’s secrets. Award-winning Decatur author Thomas Mullen launches his latest novel, Darktown, a smart crime saga that explores the timely issues of race, law enforcement and the uneven scales of justice. New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary Kubica brings Don’t You Cry, her latest hypnotic psychological thriller about identify, self-perception and the past. In End Game, author David Hagberg offers his newest Kirk McGarvey novel, a sweeping international thriller about a deadly mission. And local former Atlanta Police Department veteran Trudy Nan Boyce presents her debut novel Out of the Blues, which follows a newly-minted homicide detective as she works to solve a cold-case murder of a musician whose death was originally ruled a drug overdose.


Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling author Rick Bragg presents My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South, a poignant and funny collection of essays on life in the South. In Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon, award-winning journalist Bronwen Dickey offers a clear-eyed portrait of this extraordinary breed and an insightful view of Americans’ relationship with their dogs. In Where We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of Cities, Ryan Gravel, creator of the Atlanta Beltline, argues for leveraging existing infrastructure to reconceive how we live in American cities. Journalist Sarah Jaffe examines the new wave of political engagement and activism within the United States in Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt.

Religion & Spirituality

In A Letter to My Anxious Christian Friends, noted Christian ethics expert David Gushee explores the many social and political changes that are causing Christian anxiety, offering ways to understand and act on these issues. In her book Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto, award-winning writer and journalist Lesley Hazelton gives voice to the case for agnosticism, breaking it free of its stereotypes and celebrates it as a reasoned, revealing and sustaining stance toward life. And former Mercer University Chancellor R. Kirby Godsey (The God Particle) and theologian and scientist Paul Wallace (Stars Beneath Us: Finding God in the Evolving Cosmos) offer their different perspectives on God’s relationship to the cosmos.

Special Panels

This year at the DBF, we have partnered with iconic organizations and individuals to highlight their unique literary voices. Legendary poet Coleman Barks reads with editor Stephen Corey to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Georgia Review. AIR Serenbe, the artist in residence program at Serenbe, and the Institute for Child Success, the early childhood research and policy think tank, lead a discussion on the power of stories in the lives of children that includes spoken word artists Mahogany Brown and Anis Mojgani, and authors Jeanne Birdsall and Mac Barnett. In The Race of Artists: Examining Art and Social Activism, multi-disciplinary artists speak to their own artistic practices, and role of art in social activism. Featured panelists include Theaster Gates, Christeene Alcosiba, Clinnesha Sibley, Isabella Alexander, and Morgan Carlisle. And to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize, Georgia Pulitzer Prize winners Doug Blackmon, Hank Klibanoff, and Natasha Trethewey, as well as noted writing instructor Roy Peter Clark will read works from other Georgia Pulitzer Prize winners.


ArtsATL is curating this years art|DBF programming. The line-up includes The Atlanta History Center, 7 Stages, Serenbe Playhouse and the Atlanta Opera. ArtsATL will also introduce art installations in specific venues by local artists to enhance visitors visual experience during readings and lectures.

And don’t forget to walk by the Community Bandstand, where a diverse line-up of family-friendly performances offers a great chance to rest between author presentations. The Atlanta Shakespeare Company, Serenbe Playhouse, the Frank Hamilton School of Music and Soul Food Cypher are all scheduled to entertain and delight audiences.

Children’s & Teen Stages

Our Children’s and Teen programming continues to be one of the most popular cornerstones of the festival. New this year to the Children’s area along Sycamore Street is the Sycamore Family Zone, which will feature performances by local arts and educational organizations including Serenbe Playhouse, Wren’s Nest, 7 Stages, and Children’s Museum of Atlanta, as well as appearances by independently published children’s authors and popular book characters including Elephant and Piggie.

Festivities begin with Dav Pilkey, creator of the wildly popular and bestselling Captain Underpants series, as this year’s featured Kidnote speaker. He shares his new work, Dog Man, a tale about a new kind of hero who is half human, half canine. The Kidnote address will take place at the Performing Arts Center at Decatur High School at 310 North McDonough Street on Friday, September 2 at 5pm. Attendees are strongly encouraged to take MARTA, walk or park around the Decatur Square.

Both the Saturday and Sunday Children’s parades will inspire kids to be all that they can be. Brad Meltzer and Chris Eliopolous are the co-creators of the popular New York Times bestselling historical picture book series, Ordinary People Change the World. Covering everyone from MLK to Lucille Ball, the duo will introduce their newest books on George Washington and Jane Goodall at this year’s DBF. Saturday parade participants are invited to dress as their favorite and most admired historical figure — or to come as their ordinary and awesome selves. Parade line up will begin at 9:30am at the Community Bandstand on the Decatur Square.

For the Sunday parade, participants are invited to dress as their nerdiest selves as Andrea Beaty, author of the bestselling Rosie Revere, Engineer, leads us to the Children’s Stage to present her newest picture book, Ada Twist, Scientist. These clever picture books inspire kids to think big, to use their imaginations, to never give up. Parade line up will begin at 11:30am at the Community Bandstand on the Decatur Square.

Highlights of this year’s Children’s Stage include:

The power and beauty of picture books are celebrated with appearances by highly regarded and award winning illustrators Christian Robinson, Erin E. Stead, Brendan Wenzel, Dan Santat and Aaron Becker. Local picture book authors and illustrators include Dori Kleber (More-gami), as well as Acree Graham Macam and Natalie Nelson, co-creators of The King of the Birds, a story of a young Flannery O’Connor.

Sharon Creech (Moo: A Novel), Sara Pennypacker (Waylon! One Awesome Thing) and Lisa Yee (Supergirl at Super Hero High) bring new middle grade fiction to the Children’s Stage. For young readers of fantasy, intrigue and adventure, Robert Beatty (Seraphina and the Twisted Staff), C. Alexander London (The Wild Ones) and Kevin Sands (Blackthorn Key) discuss the follow ups to their respective series.

Teen Stage

The popular DBF Teen Stage moves to a new, fantastic location at 101 West Ponce Plaza, just off the corner of Ponce de Leon Ave. and Clairemont Ave. The Teen Stage continues to attract a highly diverse and talented line up for YA readers of any age:

Local favorite Terra Elan McVoy (This Is All Your Fault, Cassie Parker) will be joined by Jason Reynolds (Ghost) and Kate Milford (The Left Handed Fate) to discuss the joy and challenges of writing for the tween audience.

Jewell Parker Rhodes (Towers Falling), Nora Raleigh Baskin (Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story) and local author Robert Weintraub (No Better Friend) discuss the impact of shared, historic tragedy and the healing that follows.

Victoria Schwab (This Savage Song) and Zoraida Cordova (Labyrinth Lost) explore magical realism in the urban setting, and the quest for identity is examined with appearances by Adam Silvera (More Happy Than Not), Jeff Zentner (The Serpent King), Jaye Robin Brown (Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit) and Shaun David Hutchinson (We Are The Ants).

Rounding out the Teen Stage events are discussions with popular YA authors Sandy Hall, Beth Kephart, Sabaa Tahir and Beth Revis.

Back by popular demand: a rousing game of YA Truth or Dare featuring favorite YA authors as contestants and the Teen Poetry Slam, a collaboration with Atlanta Word Works, Verbalyze and Vox Teen Communications.

Book Market & Street Fair

The always popular Book Market and Street Fair showcases hundreds of authors, small publishers, artists, journalists and others throughout downtown Decatur. Check out the expanded kids|DBF area on Sycamore Street including more family entertainment. The Culinary Village has moved to the MARTA plaza and expanded to celebrate things related to food and cooking. And don’t forget to stop by the Emerging Writer’s Pavilion, where you could be hearing an excerpt from a new talent or a wise older storyteller.

Georgia Book and Paper Fair

We’re excited to once again host the 23rd annual Georgia Book and Paper Fair at the DBF. Located in the gym at the First Baptist Church, the fair brings dealers specializing in rare books and paper ephemera, so book lovers and collectors can find their favorite first editions. Hosted by the Georgia Antiquarian Booksellers Association, this fair will be a source for exciting finds for bibliophiles.

With so many wonderful choices, you’ll need this program to help you decide which amazing talent you’d like to see. Bring your highlighter, wear comfortable shoes and map out your strategy to see a beloved author, listen to a new talent and, perhaps, learn something new.We hope continue to celebrate the importance and excitement of the written word.


Julie Wilson