Emory to host Decatur Book Festival's opening discussion of Latinx and immigration issues

Emory Report | Aug. 6, 2019

Story image

Inaugural poet Richard Blanco was the featured poet at Emory’s Twelfth Night Revel on Feb. 22, 2019. He returns to campus Friday, Aug. 30, for the opening keynote of the Decatur Book Festival, where he will be joined by writer Rigoberto González and Gabriela Baeza Ventura. Emory Photo/Video

Immigration will be a topic of discussion throughout the 2019 Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival, beginning with the opening keynote on Friday, Aug. 30, at 8 p.m. in Emory’s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. 

Tickets for the keynote address are free but required. They will be available to the public starting Tuesday, Aug. 13, at noon.

Latinx writing, immigration, the power of literature to bring change and the value of providing opportunities for uncensored expression are just a few topics that will be on the table during the keynote.

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. Mariela Romero, an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist from Univision Atlanta, will moderate the discussion.

“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.”

Blanco read his poem “One Today” at the inauguration of President Barack Obama on Jan. 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. His papers are housed at Emory’s Stuart A. Rose, Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library; in February, he visited campus for readings as part of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library Reading Series and the Twelfth Night Revel.

Gonzalez’ 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. 

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 for its work as a “literary beacon against anti-immigrant sentiment.”

Launched in 2006, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival 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, it is one of the largest independent book festivals in the country. 

Emory faculty and staff members will be involved with numerous sessions during the weekend. To learn more, visit the Decatur Book Festival website. Find sessions associated with Emory by visiting the schedule page and filtering by “Emory.”