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Emory takes the stage at Decatur Book Festival

Ground-breaking feminist novelist Erica Jong appears at Emory on Friday, Sept. 4, for the opening of the Decatur Book Festival. Photo by Mary Ann Halpin.

The 2015 AJC Decatur Book Festival (DBF) kicks off this Friday with an opening keynote address by ground-breaking novelist Erica Jong from 8-10 p.m. at Emory's Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts.

Hailed as a pillar of the sexual revolution for challenging conventional attitudes surrounding women, marriage and sexuality in her internationally best-selling book "Fear of Flying," Jong will be appear in conversation with author and essayist Roxanne Gay, an associate professor of English at Purdue University, who will interview the iconic novelist.

A literary sensation when first published in 1973, "Fear of Flying" would establish Jong as one of her generation's foremost voices on sexuality and feminism. Now 73, she joins the book festival for the launch of her new novel of sexuality and satire, "Fear of Dying." A sequel to "Fear of Flying," Jong's latest novel explores what can happen when "one woman steps reluctantly into the afternoon of life," according to an AJC DBF press release.

Tickets have already sold out for the keynote event, which promises to be a dynamic evening, according to AJC DBF Executive Director Daren Wang.

"What a pairing — to have these two literary giants together is going to be a real treat," Wang says in a press release.

"It's hard to overstate Jong's impact, not just on the literary world, but on American culture," he adds. "More than 40 years have passed since she changed the way we looked at sex and what it means to be a modern woman."

But if Jong opened up a whole new world," Roxane Gay is charting the territory, Wang notes.

"With the publication of her collection 'Bad Feminist' and her novel 'An Untamed State,' Time magazine labeled 2014 as 'The Year of Roxane Gay,'" he says. "Having these two powerhouse thinkers and writers together will create a once-in-a-lifetime event."

Following Friday's keynote at Emory, the festival will continue Saturday and Sunday with events and author presentations scheduled throughout downtown Decatur.

High-powered, unique lineup

Emory is a major sponsor of the AJC Decatur Book Festival, considered the largest community-based independent book festival in the country. The weekend event features lectures and book signings from more than 600 national and local authors, who range from award-winners and best-sellers to new emerging authors.

"In our 10th year, the DBF once again features some of the best and brightest writers of the day, enabling our festival-goers to have fresh and relevant experiences," says Philip Rafshoon, AJC DBF programming director, in a press release.

"With the great support of publishers, authors and our own community, we have been able to create another high-powered and unique lineup," he says. "This year, we have an unbelievable array of rising literary stars, festival favorites, heroes and literary icons."

Highlighted authors this year include festival favorite Pat Conroy; best-selling novelists Sara Paretsky and ReShonda Tate Billingsley; science fiction author Samuel Delany; satirical novelist Christopher Moore; award-winning children's author Kevin Henkes; Young Adult novelist Libba Bray; acclaimed chefs Kevin Gillespie, Hugh Acheson and Cat Cora; and physician and medical missionary Kent Brantly, who became the first person to be treated for Ebola virus disease in the United States when he was cared for at Emory University Hospital.

This year's festival will also feature the following Emory-related authors and events:

Saturday, Sept. 5

  • "Bringing Civil Rights Cold Cases to Life in Fact and Fiction" — Greg Iles and Stanley Nelson, moderated by Hank Klibanoff, James M. Cox Jr. Professor of Journalism, and Brett Gadsden, associate professor of history and African American studies, with The Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project at Emory University, First Baptist Decatur Sanctuary Stage, 11:15 a.m. to noon.
  • "Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic" — Ebola survivor Kent Brantly, the first person to be treated for the disease in the United States at Emory University Hospital, and his wife, Amber Brantly, First Baptist Decatur Sanctuary Stage, 12:30-1:15 p.m.
  • "Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy" — Melvin Konner, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Program in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory, Marriott Conference Center Ballroom, 3-3:45 p.m.
  • "Reconciling Racism from a Sixties Childhood" — Former AJC reporter Jim Auchmutey and Jim Grimsley, professor of practice in English/creative writing at Emory, Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary Stage, 3-3:45 p.m.
  • "Vaccine Nation: America's Changing Relationship with Immunization" — Elena Conis, assistant professor of history at Emory, Marriott Conference Center Ballroom, 4:15-5 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 6

  • "Best American Poetry 2015" — Jericho Brown, award-winning poet and assistant professor of English and creative writing at Emory, and other regional poets, First Baptist Decatur Sanctuary Stage, 3:45-4:30 p.m.
  • "My Father's Guitar and Other Imaginary Things" — Joseph Skibell, professor of English and creative writing at Emory, Old Courthouse Stage, 5-5:45 p.m.
View the full Decatur Book Festival schedule.

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