Books - Decatur Book Festival Preview

How to go from a "bad feminist"

Navigating the largest independent book festival in the country can be a daunting task. If you're headed out to the AJC Decatur Book Festival we've taken the time to highlight some of the notable author signings, panels, readings, and more. Better get that fall reading list ready.

If you've been feeling like a "bad feminist" lately ...

Best-selling author, essayist, and self-proclaimed "bad feminist" Roxane Gay is here to tell you it's totally fine. In an applaud-worthy display of celebrating women, the keynote for this year's festival is Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying, a bold, dense novel that critics of the day heralded as edgy and "controversial." The novel, which fiercely unravels the unconventional sexuality of protagonist Isadora Zelda White Stollerman Wing, has maintained its importance in popular literature since its 1973 debut. Jong will be interviewing Gay, free-thinker, and author of the acclaimed New York Times best-seller, Bad Feminist.

Whereas Jong helped reconstruct the idea of women's sexuality, Gay grapples with the realization that although she embraces the key components of feminism (i.e., equal wages, affordable access to reproductive services) she has serious issues with modern-day, mainstream thought. Gay relays her ideology in her self-aware, self-deprecating work, pressing for "mainstream feminist" to start embracing working class and women of color. Basically, they need to break the mold of traditional white privilege.

Then on Saturday, "This Woman's Work," a panel, will include appearances by writer/editor Ashley C. Ford, graphic novelist Mari Naomi (Dragon's Breath), and short story writer Kirstin Valdez Quade (Night of the Fiestas) as they discuss the way women are portrayed in different genres and how to create work that reaches across class and ethnicity. The event will be moderated by writer Randa Jarrar, coordinator of the Radius of Arab-American Writers (RAWI).

If finding out what the heck a "country-soul triangle" lands at the top of your to-do list ...

Head to "Music and Race in the South" presented by Charles L. Hughes, assistant professor of history at Oklahoma State University and Eric Nunn, an assistant professor of English at Auburn University whose work has appeared in Transatlantic Roots Music: Folk, Blues, and National Identities. And yes, the "country-soul triangle" will be discussed, which symbolizes the rift between black and white America in the South — country versus soul in the '60s and '70s. Specifically, Memphis-based Stax Records (home of Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, and Sam and Dave) and Alabama-based FAME Music (where Aretha Franklin, Little Richard, Wilson Pickett, and Etta James recorded) will be analyzed. Needless to say, this discussion promises to be soul-stirring.

If you completely get why romance continues to outsell practically every other genre ...

Two of the biggest names in New Adult will be on hand to share their insights with you. First up is Jay Crownover, the New York Times best-selling author of Marked Men. Along with Crownover is Christina Lauren, New York Times best-selling author of Beautiful Bastard. It's not exactly a secret that romance outsells basically every other genre — in 2012 sales reportedly topped $1.4 billion. And no, 50 Shades of Grey is not the genre's benchmark, so stop it. New Adult, in particular, has exploded on the scene over the last five years, marked by the success of genre-defining best-selling authors such as Colleen Hoover (Hopeless, Maybe Someday), Jamie McGuire (Beautiful Disaster), and Tammara Webber (Easy). "The Queens of Romance" will be another place to get insight into a different side of the romance genre. Discover the sweet, quirky work of best-seller Kristan Higgins, Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries), and No. 1 New York Times best-selling author Robyn Carr, all of whom will be on hand to discuss the genre's ins and outs.

If you're still pissed about that suspect New York Times summer reading list that was whiter than a Donald Trump rally in central Florida ...

"The State of Publishing for People of Color" will host prominent feminist and literary figures to discuss race in publishing. A timely topic given America's turbulent social and political climate, moderator Daniel Jose Older will host a discussion with Roxane Gay, Saeed Jones, and Angela Flournoy.

If Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson totally makes you swoon ...

"How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics" should satisfy your inner nerd. Mathematician Eugenia Cheng's new book, How to Bake Pi, aims to prove that math isn't just for solving specific problems — it's a way of thinking. She combines her love for cooking and numbers and the result is an accessible approach to mathematics.

If you spend your time looking for things that rhyme ...

"Best American Poetry 2015" is for you. In all seriousness, five poets from around the country will convene to discuss the eternal spirit of American poetry. This also marks the official launch of the book Best American Poetry 2015 (published by Simon and Schuster), so you'll get a chance to meet the talented contributors.

If you remember that one time you were the first person to tell your friends about Janelle Monáe and want to do the same with an indie author ...

You definitely need to stop by the Emerging Authors tent, which will be buzzing with activity all weekend. There you'll find books upon books of diverse works penned by indie writers and you'll get to hear some of them read short excerpts.

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