By the book

Emory authors shine at the
Decatur Book Festival

A diverse slate of Emory faculty, staff and student authors will take the stage this weekend at the 2018 AJC Decatur Book Festival, set for Aug. 31 through Sept. 2 at multiple venues.

Emory University has become a presenting sponsor of the event, making it the second largest sponsor of the nation’s largest independent book festival. 

“As a community committed to the literary arts, the generation of new knowledge, and the life of the mind, the Decatur Book Festival is a natural partner in our work,” says Dwight A. McBride, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Emory.

“Together, we share the talents of our faculty authors, who are among the best in the nation, to promote the rich literary culture that exists in Atlanta.”

Founded in 2006, the Decatur Book Festival is expected to draw tens of thousands throughout Labor Day Weekend. More than a dozen Emory faculty authors will give public readings on their latest books or research, and Emory students will be among those giving readings on the Local Poetry Stage. Emory authors will also visit the Emory University tent during the festival to sign books and greet fans.

“Emory has been a staunch supporter of and participant in the festival for many years,” says Julie Wilson, executive director of the AJC Decatur Book Festival. “We are thrilled that the university is now a presenting sponsor, and we look forward to working even more closely with Emory in ensuring that the DBF remains a singular literary event and resource for writers and readers across the country.”

Friday, Aug. 31 &
Saturday, Sept. 1

A crowd surrounds the Emory University tent at the Decatur Book Festival. A crowd surrounds the Emory University tent at the Decatur Book Festival.

Keynote: Take You Wherever You Go

Kenny Leon, Tony Award-winning Broadway director

Aug. 31, 8 p.m., Emory's Schwartz Center for Performing Arts

Emory once again hosts the keynote for the Decatur Book Festival, as internationally acclaimed director and actor Kenny Leon releases his memoir, "Take You Wherever You Go." Leon will be in conversation with former NBA star, philanthropist, painter and author Joe Barry Carroll discussing the stories and people who have shaped him into the man he is today.

Tickets are required and the event is officially listed as sold out. A limited number of tickets remain available online through the Arts at Emory Box Office. Any released tickets will be available through the Emory box office beginning at noon on Friday.

Kidnote: A Celebration of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Aug. 31, 5-7 p.m., Presser Hall at Agnes Scott College

Ivy & Bean & Charlie & Mouse & Jasmine Toguchi

Sept. 1, 12:15-12:45 p.m., Children’s Stage at Decatur Recreation Center

Laurel Snyder, instructor, Emory Creative Writing Program

The author of six children’s novels and numerous picture books, Laurel Snyder will speak during two panel discussions at the Decatur Book Festival. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of “Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone,” Snyder sits on a panel discussing how this novel changed the literary landscape of Young Adult books. Other panelists include Becky Albertalli, author of “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” now a motion picture called “Love, Simon,” Adam Gidwitz, author of “The Unicorn Rescue Society,” Nic Stone, author of “Dear Martin” and Angie Thomas, author of “The Hate U Give.”

Snyder’s second panel discussion at DBF will discuss children tackling their first chapter book. Other panelists include Annie Barrows, author of “Ivy and Bean: One Big Happy Family,” and Debbi Michiko Florence, author of “Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper.”

Saturday, Sept. 1

A crowd surrounds the Emory University tent at the Decatur Book Festival. A crowd surrounds the Emory University tent at the Decatur Book Festival.

Who Even Am I?

T. Cooper, assistant professor, creative writing

Sept. 1, 10-10:45 a.m., Young Adult Stage

Adolescence is a time for figuring out big things, including who you are. But how do you do that when your whole world is turned upside down? Author T Cooper, who joins Emory's creative writing faculty this fall, will discuss the YA "Changers" series that he wrote with his wife and co-author Allison Glock-Cooper, about an ancient race of humans who are "Changers" and must live out each year of high school as someone new. "Changers: Book Four" was published Sept. 4.

In addition to Cooper and Glock-Cooper, panelists include Rachel Gold, author of multiple queer and trans YA novels; Will Walton, author of "Anything Could Happen"; and moderator Julian Winters, author of "Running with Lions."

Read more: "Best-selling author T Cooper joins Emory faculty"

The Fears of the Rich, The Needs of the Poor

William Foege, Presidential Distinguished Professor of International Health, Emeritus

Sept. 1, 10-10:45 a.m., Marriott Conference Center B

As former director for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. William Foege discusses the major improvements made in public health, including the control of malaria and the eradication of smallpox.

Because of his research in creating a smallpox vaccine that eventually lead to its eradication, Foege received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2012 from then-President Barrack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. He gave Emory's Commencement address in 2016.

Foege’s second book, “The Fears of the Rich, The Needs of the Poor: My Years at the CDC,” describes what happened behind the scenes at the nation’s largest health protection agency and crises he experienced while director.

Read more: "President Obama honors William Foege, Emory professor emeritus, with prestigious award "

Fearless Dialogues: A New Movement for Justice

Gregory Ellison, associate professor of pastoral care and counseling, Candler School of Theology

Sept. 1, 1:45-2:30 p.m., First Baptist Decatur Sanctuary

Interviewed by Emory alumnus Doug Shipman, president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center, Gregory Ellison discusses his conversations around the country with community members about important issues such as unemployment and violence.

Ellison’s methodology in creating stronger communities involves speaking to everyone “from doctors to drug dealers.” His program, “Fearless Dialogues,” continues to help many struggling and divided communities around the nation.

Ellison’s book, “Fearless Dialogues: A New Movement for Justice,” recounts to readers his successes in communities and actions taken to create lasting change.

Read more: "Public scholar Ellison shares his journey in 'Fearless Dialogues'"

Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan

Ruby Lal, professor of South Asian history

Sept. 1, 3-3:45 p.m., Marriott Conference Center B

As the wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir, Nur Jahan is regarded by historians as “the real power behind the throne” in 14th century India. With her charismatic attitude, Jahan was able to achieve great feats for her country.

In her book, “Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan,” Ruby Lal discusses how influential the empress was to India in a time where women rarely held positions of power.

Lal’s presentation at Decatur Book Festival highlights Nur Jahan, and why she is truly a woman who changed Mughal India forever.

Read more: ‘Empress’ details history of India’s ‘Queen of Queens’

This Imagined World

Jericho Brown, director, Creative Writing Program and associate professor of English and creative writing

Sept. 1, 3-3:45 p.m, Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary

Acclaimed poet Jericho Brown, director of Emory's Creative Writing Program, serves as moderator as Aimee Nezhukumatathil (right) and Diane Seuss (left), two of the country’s most imaginative poets, read work from their new collections.


Understanding our Painful Past: Investigating the Impact of Lynchings Through Voice and Prose

Hank Klibanoff, professor of practice, creative writing

Sept.1, 5:30-6:15 p.m., Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary

Lynchings of African-American men and women are a part of a dishonorable and shocking history, especially in the South.

Hank Klibanoff, director of the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project at Emory and host of the Buried Truths podcast on WABE radio, uncovers our past by discussing how far white-supremacists went to ensure their dominance over African-Americans. Klibanoff examines several civil-rights cases to discover the truth in history.

Panel also includes Anthony Grooms, author of "The Vain Conversation," which delves into a 1946 case of two African-American lynchings.

Read more: "Emory professor’s new podcast unearths Georgia’s ‘Buried Truths’ "

Sunday, Sept. 2

A crowd surrounds the Emory University tent at the Decatur Book Festival. A crowd surrounds the Emory University tent at the Decatur Book Festival.

Eating Ethically: Religion and Science for a Better Diet

Jonathan K. Crane, Raymond F. Schinazi Scholar in Bioethics and Jewish Thought

Sept. 2, 2:30-3:15 p.m., Marriott Conference Center Auditorium

How can something we do at least three times a day influence how we feel, physically and ethically, and yet be so controversial?

Jonathan Crane examines the connection between food and ethics, sociology, biology and much more in his book, “Eating Ethically: Religion and Science for a Better Diet.” Crane wants others to understand the enormous impact of what you choose to eat.

Presenting at the Decatur Book Festival, Crane explains the importance of ethical and thoughtful eating practices, and argues that the public should adapt such habits.

Read more: “Crane's 'Eating Ethically' draws inspiration from Emory classroom”

An American Marriage

Tayari Jones, acting professor of creative writing

Sept. 2, 3:45-4:30 p.m., First Baptist Decatur Sanctuary

Author of “An American Marriage,” an Oprah’s Book Club pick, Tayari Jones shares her novel and what inspired her to write it.

When Celestial’s husband, Roy, gets arrested for a crime she is sure he did not commit, Celestial must face Roy’s best friend, Andre, as well as her storied past to find where she belongs and if she still loves her husband.

Now on her fourth book, Jones, a new member of Emory's creative writing faculty, is a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

Read more: "Author Tayari Jones joins Emory University faculty"

Archives: Sites of Memory, History and Reflection

Sarah Quigley, manuscript archivist and interim head of manuscript processing at Emory's Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library; Dorothy Waugh, digital archivist at the Rose Library; Julie Newton, assistant conservator for the Emory Libraries Conservation Department; moderated by Pellom McDaniels III, curator of African American collections for the Rose Library and author of "The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy."

Sept. 2, 3:45-4:30 p.m., Marriott Conference Center C

Staff of Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library as well as the Emory Libraries Conservation Department will discuss their work on rare and important documents. Sarah Quigley has worked on the Congressional records of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). Dorothy Waugh is responsible for born-digital documents at Emory’s Rose Library, and Julie Newton works on treating and exhibiting rare books and documents for the special collections library at Emory. Members of the panel will discuss the archival and preservation processes and how to use these pieces for research and learning.

Atticus Finch: A Biography

Joseph Crespino, Jimmy Carter Professor of History

Sept. 2, 3:45-4:30 p.m., Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary

Author of “Atticus Finch: A Biography,” Joseph Crespino discusses how Harper Lee’s father was the inspiration for Finch’s character in both of her books.

Atticus Finch is seen as a racist in “Go Set a Watchman,” but defends a black man wrongfully accused of rape in the beloved “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Crespino discusses the stark differences in the character's portrayal in each book and connects this with the "real" Atticus Finch: A.C. Lee.

Introducing Crespino at the Decatur Book Festival is Edward Hatfield, managing editor of the “New Georgia Encyclopedia.”

Read more: “Who was Atticus Finch? Emory letters, upcoming book shed new light on beloved character”

The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation, and the Rise of Donald Trump

Alan Abramowitz, Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science

Sept. 2, 5-5:45 p.m., Marriott Conference Center B

In his book, “The Great Alignment,” Alan Abramowitz discusses how polarization in the United States occurs and why it might soon grow deeper.

A political science professor at Emory, Abramowitz argues that the polarization of our two-party system is unique to our country and divides us by race, region and geographical area. Now one of the top experts in election modeling, Abramowitz argues that polarization directly reflects today’s American society.

Abramowitz is introduced at the Decatur Book Festival by Jim Galloway, editor and writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Read more: "Political polarization paved way for Trump, will continue into 2020 race"

The Enlightened Gene: Biology, Buddhism, and the Convergence that Explains the World

Arri Eisen, Nat C. Robertson Distinguished Teaching Professor in Science & Society in Biology, Institute for the Liberal Arts, Center for Ethics

Sept. 2, 5-5:45 p.m., Marriott Conference Center A

Tibetan monks have created an unlikely bond with scientists through the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative that began nearly a decade ago. This bond shows the relationship between religion and science and how these fields can work together in order to achieve success.

Using both religion and biology, Arri Eisen discusses the root of "good" and other existential thinking. Eisen has been a leader in the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative since its onset.

Interviewed by Rev. Dr. James Brewer-Calvert, Eisen considers compassion, death and everything essential for life.

Read more: "‘The Enlightened Gene’ captures Emory-Tibet Science Initiative’s integration of science, faith"

The Ordinary and Extraordinary in Short Stories

Andy Plattner, instructor, creative writing

Sept. 2, 12-12:45 p.m., Marriott Conference Center Auditorium

Andy Plattner, author of “Dixie Luck,” will speak on a panel at the Decatur Book Festival discussing the best of short stories. Plattner’s book focuses on optimistic characters who work hard for success, even with unfortunate odds against them.

Other panelists include Amy Bonnaffons, author of “The Wrong Heaven,” and J.J. Haas, author of “Welcome to Sugarville.” Moderating the panel is David Russell, librarian, bookseller and storyteller.

Book signings
by Emory authors

A crowd surrounds the Emory University tent at the Decatur Book Festival. A crowd surrounds the Emory University tent at the Decatur Book Festival.

Meet authors at the Emory tent

Emory's Center for Faculty Development and Excellence will host book signings by Emory authors throughout the weekend at the Emory tent, located at the corner of Clairemont and West Ponce, in front of the Old Dekalb County Courthouse.

Saturday, Sept. 1

  • 11 a.m. – Andrew Plattner, instructor in creative writing,“Dixie Luck: Stories and the Novella Terminal”
  • 12 p.m. – T Cooper, assistant professor of English and creative writing, “Changers Book 4: Forever”
  • 2:30 p.m. – Joseph Crespino, Jimmy Carter Professor of History, “Atticus Finch: The Biography”
  • 3:30 p.m. – Gregory Ellison, associate professor of theology, “Fearless Dialogues: A New Movement for Justice”
  • 4:30 p.m. – Ruby Lal, professor of South Asian history,“Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan”

Sunday, Sept. 2

  • 1 p.m. – Tayari Jones, professor of English and creative writing,  “An American Marriage”
  • 2 p.m. – Arri Eisen, Nat C. Robertson Distinguished Teaching Professor of Science and Society in Biology, “The Enlightened Gene: Biology, Buddhism, and the Convergence That Explains the World”
  • 3:30 p.m. – Alan Abramowitz, Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science, “The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation, and the Rise of Donald Trump”
  • 4:30 p.m. – Jonathan Crane, Raymond F. Schinazi Scholar in Bioethics and Jewish Thought, “Eating Ethically: Religion and Science for a Better Diet”

Emory writers on the Local Poetry Stage

In addition to presentations and book signings, Emory staff and students will also appear on the Local Poetry Stage.

Saturday, Sept. 1

  • 11:30-11:40 a.m. – Eric Canosa, Emory Department of English, undergraduate degree program coordinator
  • 5:15-5:25 p.m. – Christina Schmitt, graduate student in Candler School of Theology

Sunday, Sept. 2

  • 4:40-6 p.m. – Emory University poets. Roster includes Nathan Blansett (senior), Chloe Camp (junior), Sara Cunningham (junior), Esther Lee, Katharine Johnsen (alumna), Michelle Oppong-Ampofo (junior), Christell Victoria Roach (senior), Caroline M. Schmidt (alumna), Dana Sokolowski (alumna) and Alice Teeter (former lecturer in poetry).

Emory writers at the Emerging Writers Pavillion

Sunday, Sept. 2

  • 3:40-3:45 p.m. – Timothy Fields, associate dean, Office of Admission – Undergraduate, auhtor of "Lessons I Learned from Drinking"

    About this story: Written by Catherine Morrow. Video and poster art courtesy of Decatur Book Festival. Emory festival photos courtesy of Emory Libraries. Design by Laura Douglas-Brown.