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Book lovers will not fill downtown Decatur this Labor Day weekend for the 15th annual Decatur Book Festival, due to Covid-19 precautions. The event will carry on virtually, instead, with more than 40 nationally known writers scheduled to take part.

The festival will be bookended by Pulitzer Prize winners associated with Emory University: professor Jericho Brown will be the September 4 keynote speaker, and Natasha Trethewey, a two-time U.S. poet laureate and former Emory professor, will close the festival with an October 4 keynote.

Decatur Book FestivalBrown will talk about his latest book of poetry, Traditions, with Mathwon Howard, president of the festival board. 

Trethewey will discuss her new memoir, Memorial Drive, with Rosemary M. Magee, former director of Emory’s Rose Library. Memorial Drive looks at the South through the lens of her mother, who was murdered by Trethewey’s former stepfather. It also digs into the region’s history of racial injustice and domestic violence.

All panels are free and broadcast via Crowdcast, an app that costs nothing to download.

Other participating authors will include:

DAVID SATCHER, former U.S. surgeon general, discussing his book My Quest for Health Equity.

KEVIN YOUNG, discussing African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song, an anthology he’s edited.

ROXANE GAY and SORAYA NADIA McDONALD, talking about writing in a world of turmoil. Gay’s latest book is HUNGER: A Memoir of (My) Body. McDonald is a culture critic for the website The Undefeated and a 2020 Pulitzer finalist.

CHELSEA RATHBURN, Georgia poet laureate, doing a reading and discussing how poetry and memoirs can bring the experiences of marginalized people to the forefront.

BARBARA BROWN TAYLOR, SOPHFRONIA SCOTT and BETH WALTEMATH, discussing a prayer-centered life. Taylor is a Georgia theologian, Scott is an author and Waltemath is pastor of North Decatur Presbyterian Church,

Jericho Brown will discuss his latest collection of poetry, “The Tradition,” at this year’s virtual festival.

A PANEL ON SOUTHERN NOIR will bring together crime novelists S.A. Cosby, Attica Locke and Thomas Mullen.

A PANEL ON ROMANCE NOVELS will focus on protagonists who are women of color and feature authors Jane Igharo, Alisha Rai, Farrah Rochon and Yaffa Santos.

The festival also will feature the film Flash Here and There Like Falling Stars: The Life and Work of Dr. Pellom McDaniels III, followed by a panel discussion of McDaniels’ life and his work as curator of African American collections at Emory. The screening begins at 2 p.m. September 9.

Best-selling graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier will moderate Graphix Con, a panel of authors and artists.

The festival’s culinary program will spotlight Southern food traditions. Atlanta food journalist Susan Puckett will interview Toni Tipton Martin, author of the James Beard Award-winning book The Jemima Code.

Books will be available online via Decatur Book Festival partners A Cappella Books, Brave + Kind Bookshop, Charis Books & More, Eagle Eye Book Shop, FoxTale Book Shoppe, Little Shop of Stories and Tall Tales Books.

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