Virtual 2020 Decatur Book Festival spotlights Emory-related authors

By Maureen McGavin | Emory Report | Aug. 28, 2020

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The AJC Decatur Book Festival presented by Emory University is going virtual this year, with several events featuring an Emory presence.

The online festival begins Friday, Sept. 4, with Emory professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jericho Brown as the keynote speaker.

Activities conclude Sunday, Oct. 4, with 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former two-term U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey as the endnote speaker, discussing her new book, “Memorial Road: A Daughter’s Memoir.” Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library holds Trethewey’s papers.

The festival’s main track spotlights several events with an Emory connection.

Keynote with Jericho Brown in conversation with festival board president Mathwon Howard

Friday, Sept. 4, 2:30 p.m. 

Brown, director of Emory’s Creative Writing Program and Winship Distinguished Research Professor in Creative Writing, won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for “The Tradition,” a lyrical collection of poems that addresses the normalization of evil and celebrates those who have lived through it. Howard, who is now an associate vice president for development at Yale University, most recently served as Emory’s senior associate vice president for development programs. Register for this online event. 

Rosemary Magee Creativity Conversation presents “Flash Here and There Like Falling Stars: The Life and Work of Dr. Pellom McDaniels III” film and discussion

Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2 p.m.

The Rose Library will host a virtual discussion about Pellom McDaniels III, who passed away earlier this year. The event will begin with the debut of “Flash Here and There Like Falling Stars: The Life and Work of Dr. Pellom McDaniels III,” a film about his life, contributions and work as curator of the Rose Library’s African American collections. 

Following the film, current and former members of the Emory community who worked closely with McDaniels and were deeply informed by his vision and generosity will discuss his legacy and impact on multiple communities. Rose Library director Jennifer King will moderate the discussion with Dwight Andrews, associate professor of music theory and African American music at Emory; Clint Fluker, assistant director of engagement and scholarship at the AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library; and Randall Burkett, retired curator of African American collections at the Rose Library. Register for the online event.

Pray with Your Whole Life: On Howard Thurman and Thomas Merton

Thursday, Sept. 10, 6:30 p.m.

Georgia theologian, author and Emory alumna Barbara Brown Taylor and author Sophfronia Scott will discuss their studies of Howard Thurman, Thomas Merton and prayer-centered life with Pastor Beth Waltemath of North Decatur Presbyterian Church.

A former Candler School of Theology distinguished visiting professor, Taylor received a bachelor of arts degree in religion from Emory in 1973 before earning her master of divinity from Yale in 1976. She was named one of Emory’s 175 Makers of History and won the prestigious Emory Medal in 1998. Register for this online event.

Crime Fiction Down South

Monday, Sept. 14, 6:30 p.m.

Carl Suddler, Emory history professor and author of ​“Presumed Criminal: Black Youth and the Justice System in Postwar New York,”​ will moderate as award-winning novelists Tom Mullen, Attica Locke and S.A. Cosby discuss their hard-hitting crime novels set in Georgia, Texas and Virginia.

Mullen’s novel “Lightning Men”​ explores race, law enforcement and justice in mid-century Atlanta. Locke’s “​Heaven, My Home”​ chronicles a Texas Ranger’s search for a missing child and grapples with American nostalgia and white supremacy. Cosby’s ​“My Darkest Prayer”​ follows an unconventional investigator tracing the cause of a small-town minister’s death. These authors will discuss what they love about crime fiction with Suddler and Emory graduate student Kareem Joseph. Register for this event

African American Poetry with Kevin Young

Tuesday, Sept. 22, 6:30 p.m.

Poet Kevin Young, who recently compiled and edited the anthology “African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song,” will take part in a fascinating conversation about the range of voices in African American poetry, both in his own writings and as a scholar working on this anthology. Young, a former creative writing professor at Emory and former curator at the Rose Library who is now director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, recently placed his papers with the Rose Library. Register for this event.

Endnote with Natasha Trethewey

Sunday, Oct. 4, 4:30 p.m.

Yolanda Cooper, dean and university librarian at Emory, will introduce the festival’s endnote featuring poet and author Natasha Trethewey and interviewer Rosemary Magee discussing Trethewey’s recent release, “​Memorial Drive​: A Daughter’s Memoir.” The book wrestles with the South’s history through the lens of her life and the life of her mother, who was murdered by Trethewey’s former stepfather. ​“Memorial Drive” dives deep into a shared human experience of sudden loss and absence, but also into the enduring ripple effects of white racism and domestic abuse in the American South. Trethewey is a former professor at Emory who served as director of the Creative Writing Program. Her papers are in the Rose Library archives, where Magee was previously director. Register for this event.