Interviews with 2023 Festival Authors

Whether you’re on the move or at home, audiobooks are a fantastic way to stay engaged with your favorite authors. We teamed up with our friends at Libro.fm to bring you select author interviews from the 2023 Texas Book Festival on the Libro.fm podcast. And guess what? Festival Friends Pass holders enjoy a free audiobook from Libro.fm and several other Festival goodies! Click a tile below to listen to the interviews.

Celebrating Pride Month

In honor of Pride Month, TBF reached out to queer-owned and -operated bookstores in Texas for book recommendations! From horror to poetry, we’re looking camp right in the eye to bring you plenty of excellent reads. We encourage our audience to engage with LGBTQIA+ authors this month and all year round by purchasing their books and sharing and attending their in-person and virtual events. We also invite our audience to show these bookstores some love online and in-store. Click book titles or book cover thumbnails to purchase these recommendations directly from the bookstore.


Reverie Books was established in South Austin’s ’45 neighborhood in the late fall of 2021 right when it looked as though the pandemic would wane (it didn’t). Reverie Books is a queer-owned neighborhood bookstore dedicated to social justice and community building, with a mission of uplifting marginalized voices and youth empowerment through their high school internship/community giveback program.

“Look, if you’re queer these books are going to make your heart sing,” said Thais Perkins, owner of Reverie Books. “If you’re an ally, or if you want a read that will help you better understand the queer zeitgeist, these stories bring a lot to the table. They’ll make you laugh, cry, scream, think, and maybe just help bring us all a little closer together.”

Reverie recommends The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune and Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea by Rebecca Thorne if you need something for your mom/family member/colleague:

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune is one of our absolute favorites at Reverie. It’s a story about an orphanage full of magical children run by a fellow that is being investigated, like in a British way, by a lovely man who is just trying to do his job well. The two of them just constantly show up for the kids in the most caring way, and maybe fall in love a little in the process? Next out in that ‘series’ (the books stand alone) will be Somewhere Beyond the Sea, releasing September 9, and we are on FIRE for it!”

 

Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea by Rebecca Thorne is a sapphic cozy fantasy about dragons and setting up a tea shop. Mostly the tea shop. Got problems with the dragons? Don’t kill them, talk to them! The next in the new series, A Pirate’s Life for Tea, releases October 1.”

 

 

Reverie recommends Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle if you need something for a friend who wants to know how gay conversion camp felt:

Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle is the schadenfreude you need! Part thriller, part slasher, part childhood trauma working itself out, it’s for any of us who were worried we were headed for hell just for being who we are. Next up from Chuck is Bury Your Gays, out July 9, in which Hollywood gets the Tingle Treatment!”

 

 

Reverie recommends This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel if you want to give a book to a family supporting a trans kid:

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel is one of the most compassionate, nuanced portraits of a family supporting their trans child I’ve ever read. It’s not simplistic in its portrayal of how the parents grapple with their intense instinct to protect and understand their kid, and the fact that the book persists into the traumatic teenage years is brave and powerful. This book truly is for family members who are always striving to do better and be better for their kiddos.”

 

Reverie recommends Pretty by KB Brookins if you want something raw about growing up intersectionally Black, queer, and trans in Texas:

“Our own Austin poet KB Brookins has just come out with their memoir Pretty, being hailed as fierce and deeply human. It’s a compendium of short stories, poetry, and photography, and it’s drawing the kind of breathless early praise that makes an impression. It’s going to save someone’s life, probably many people’s. KB has really knocked it out of the park with this one.”

 


BookWoman is a 100% queer-owned and -operated bookstore that began 48 years ago in an upstairs shop on Guadalupe Street in Austin, TX. It began as a collective called The Common Woman Bookstore (based on the Judy Grahn poem.) From there, the store moved into Susan Post’s house at the time, and the collective eventually dissolved. The store took on the name BookWoman and moved to 6th Street. After that, BookWoman moved to 12th and Lamar, and since 2008 the store has been located at 5501 North Lamar. They are known as the “oldest, queerest, feminist-ist bookstore in Texas”.

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

“After an extensive and tragic undersea submarine expedition, Mari must confront the fact that her wife, Leah, has changed and is still changing. Our Wives Under the Sea is an exquisite exploration of the unknowable depths and the difficult transformations relationships must often undergo. If you like a slow burn or are new to the horror genre, this is the book for you.” – Susan (Staff member)

In Memoriam by Alice Winn

In Memoriam portrays war, human nature, and the transcendent power of love with breathtaking honesty. With characters who will stick with you for a lifetime and utterly consuming prose, Winn poignantly captures the beauty of young love and the lengths we will go to save those who matter most. A memorable love story that breaks the boundaries of queer romance, In Memoriam is for those who’re craving a title crafted with tenderness and an emotional read of a lifetime.” – Aivry (Staff member)

Cuckoo by Gretchen Felker-Martin

Cuckoo reflects the current attacks on Queer and Trans youth and begs us to do something about it. Felker-Martin captures both the terror and tenderness of queer youth through an unflinching vision of nostalgia with a bite. Every character is so rich and full of life—they’re people you know and love—which makes their fates all the more terrifying. Both a love letter to horror classics and to queerness, Cuckoo will inspire you to go bash in some brains and save some kids.” – Aud (Staff member)


The Little Gay Shop is an unapologetically queer gift store and bookshop supporting exclusively LGBTQIA+ artists, authors, and makers. TLGS was founded in 2019 in the heart of Texas to support and promote exclusively LGBTQIA+ artists from around the world, the first store of its kind. They carry an array of books, art, and giftable items from hundreds of makers that not only allow customers to feel safe, seen, reflected, and represented, but to expose them to unique worldwide perspectives.

TLGS lives by the adage “by queers, for all” and encourages people to shop local, shop small, and shop queer all year long!

Greta and Valdin by Rebecca K. Reilly

“When this book came out earlier this year in the United States, we all immediately understood why it was a run-away bestseller in Reilly’s home country of New Zealand: it’s one of the funniest, smartest, gayest family sagas we’ve ever read! You’ll absolutely fall in love with Māori-Russian-Catalonian siblings, Greta and Valdin, who are, to put it quite honestly, both queer hot-messes who are painfully relatable despite being some of the most original characters you’ll find in contemporary publishing. This book actually made us both laugh out loud AND tear up at times, a feat that’s much less common than you’d think!”

 

The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide by Steven W. Thrasher

“We have all been deeply changed and impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and so many (if not all) of us are still carrying the grief, stress, and difficulty of these impacts with us. This book affirms and validates those feelings while inspiring readers to show up and continue to care for one another. Dr. Thrasher’s beautiful, moving, and thought-provoking exploration of viruses, including the novel coronavirus and HIV, reveals important truths about who is most likely to get sick and how health disparities harm us all. Blending terrific journalism, memoir, and accessible, yet rigorous, theoretical analysis, Dr. Thrasher, himself a Black, queer man, highlights the brilliance of queer activists throughout this compelling read.”

 

Bury Your Gays by Chuck Tingle (Out July 9)

“Usually by July 9 businesses have packed up their rainbow flags, swept up the last of the lingering glitter, and ended their seasonal promotions, marking the end of Pride Month (until we get to do it all over again for Austin Pride in August). So, to really hammer home the importance of reading queer all year, here’s a recommendation for your summer TBR that you have to wait to read until after Pride Month. Bury Your Gays follows Hollywood TV and film writer, Misha, who’s under pressure to kill off the gay characters in his television series while seemingly being haunted by the scariest villains from his own shows and movies. Whether you’re a dedicated horror fan or new to the genre, Tingle will scare, surprise, and entertain you in equal measure in this fun and creepy horror read. Tingle writes complex, compelling queer characters whose queerness feels central to the narrative in creative and thoughtful ways, even as they’re battling some of the most unsettling, scary horror monsters we’ve ever encountered!”

Fresh Ink Fiction Contest

Thank you for your interest in Texas Book Festival’s Fresh Ink Fiction Contest. This year, instead of the fiction contest, we’re excited to try something new! We will still have a session that features young writers during Festival Weekend, and we are busy planning author panels and interactive experiences for teens. Please subscribe to the TBF newsletter and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and X @texasbookfest for the latest updates.

Annie Jacob

Annie Jacob serves on the Friends of the Children Austin Board of Directors. She is a teacher, volunteer, and advocate for children in disadvantaged environments. Previously an elementary teacher in Richmond, California, Annie Jacob understands the importance of building sustained and nurturing relationships with youth. As the nation recognizes and expands opportunities for diversity, equity, and inclusion, the Jacob family is leading to ensure children facing adversity are recognized, acknowledged, and prioritized. Annie just had a baby in November of 2023 and has three other children.

Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month

In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, the TBF staff is delighted to spotlight some of their favorite reads by authors featured at the 2023 Texas Book Festival. Additionally, we invite our audiences to support AAPI authors year-round by purchasing their books, sharing their work online and offline, and attending their virtual and in-person events.


“This charming story about two friends, one real and one imaginary, is sure to make readers smile and tug on their heartstrings as well. With themes of friendship, believing, and loss, this is a book that young children, adults, and everyone in between will undoubtedly relate to. Picture books are for everyone, and this is one not to be missed.” – Michelle Hernandez, Director of Youth Programs

“Ava Chin takes us on a journey through both her maternal and paternal family stories and in doing so, provides an expansive overview of the Chinese-immigrant experience in America since the 1900s. I have always been fascinated by New York City’s Chinatown and enjoyed delving into this rich history through the study of two memorable families who inhabited the same apartment building in the heart of Chinatown for many years. Equally interesting is the historical backdrop that Chin so expertly paints.” – Susannah Auby, Development Director

“This gripping story explores the dark side of the wellness and beauty industry through a fictional lens. When a piano prodigy abandons her craft in the wake of a traumatic event, she goes to work for an upscale wellness boutique in New York City. As the protagonist immerses herself in all her new employer has to offer, she begins to discover a series of unsettling revelations that demonstrate the truly sinister nature of her workplace. This thought-provoking debut novel forces the reader to consider their own role in consumerism and the ways in which toxic beauty standards shape our society.” – Hannah Gabel, Literary Director

“This captivating sci-fi thriller debut bounces back and forth in time amidst Earth’s environmental collapse. In the present, a lethal bomb erupts on board a spaceship carrying eighty people charged with starting a new civilization. Asuka Hoshino-Silva’s investigation of the incident interweaves with flashbacks to her childhood selection for the mission and her mixed emotions over being chosen to represent Japan as a half-Japanese girl raised in America. Though I’m not usually drawn to the space voyage subgenre of speculative fiction, The Deep Sky quickly enthralled me through its memorable characters, intricate worldbuilding, and artful incorporation of modern issues and social conflicts. I look forward to reading more of Kitasei’s work!” – Anna Dolliver, Operations & Literary Coordinator

“A tender story that shines a touching light on the intricacies of pursuing your passion and doing so bravely. It’s Boba Time for Pearl Li covers difficult and important conversations about how creative pursuits are complicated by cultural expectations and is inspiring in a way I wish I could have had exposure to when I was her age!” – Becky Gomez, Digital Design & Content Coordinator

 

Celebrating National Poetry Month

To celebrate National Poetry Month, Texas Book Festival honors the genre and the occasion by spotlighting Amanda Johnston. Johnston is the 2024 Texas Poet Laureate and founder of Torch Literary Arts, a nonprofit organization established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women with whom TBF partners during Festival weekend. We spoke with Johnston about the significance of this month.


TBF: What are some ways that folks can engage with poetry this month or at any time?

AJ: Read poetry. Listen to poetry. Share a poem. Write a poem. Poetry is all around us and can offer a moment of stillness and wonder in a fast-paced world. Visit and bookmark these sites for great poems all year: Poets.org, PoetryFoundation.org, Poems.com, and TorchLiteraryArts.org.

TBF: What are some misconceptions about poetry that should be demystified?

AJ: That poetry is hard to understand. As infants, we learn how to communicate through poetry and songs uniquely tuned to our body’s natural rhythms. Your favorite song is just a poem you sing out loud. Understanding comes with feeling. Read a poem and let your heart sing.

TBF: What does it mean to you to be the 2024 Texas State Poet Laureate?

AJ: I’m honored! As the first Black woman to hold this position, I hope other Black and BIPOC women see that it is possible and are inspired to keep writing. I look forward to amplifying the voices of others and celebrating the joy and power of poetry across the state.

TBF: Can you tell us about Torch Literary Arts and some ways that folks might engage with and support your organization or other organizations with similar missions?

AJ: Torch Literary Arts is a 501c3 nonprofit that supports Black women writers. As a Black woman writer, I founded Torch in 2006 to create a space for us by us that centers and celebrates our work and creative lives. Torch’s award-winning online publication, Torch Magazine, features poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and script (plays and screenplays). Our programs include the Wildfire Reading Series that features local and national authors, creative writing and professional development workshops, the Torch Retreat for Black women writers with works-in-progress, and special events like The Salon at Antone’s and readings and panels with the Texas Book Festival. All of our features are paid and our programs are provided at low or no cost. As a charitable organization, the community is our lifeblood. Read Torch Magazine online (it’s free!), join us at our events, and donate if you can to support Black women writers from across the diaspora.


We Carry the Torch, by Amanda Johnston.


Amanda Johnston is a writer and artist. She was born in East St. Louis, IL, and was raised in Austin, TX. She began writing poetry while living in Kentucky. Her writing is published widely, and she has presented at numerous literary conferences and events.

She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine. She is the author of two chapbooks, GUAP and Lock & Key, and the full-length collection Another Way to Say Enter. Her work has appeared in numerous online and print publications, among them, Callaloo, Poetry Magazine, Puerto del Sol, Muzzle, and the anthologies, Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry and Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism. She has received fellowships, grants, and awards from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, Tasajillo, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, The Watermill Center, and the Austin International Poetry Festival. She is a former Board President of Cave Canem Foundation, a member of the Affrilachian Poets, cofounder of Black Poets Speak Out, and founder of Torch Literary Arts. 

Learn more at amandajohnston.com.

Texas Book Festival Welcomes Four New Board Members

We’re proud to announce the addition of four distinguished individuals to our Board of Directors. These new members bring a wealth of experience and talents to the organization, further strengthening our commitment to promoting literature year-round and during our annual Festival Weekend. New board member appointments took effect on March 5, 2024.

Joining the Board of Directors are:

Dr. Daniel Guerrero is a former Mayor of San Marcos. He is also a Distinguished Alumnus of San Marcos High School, holds multiple certificates from Austin Community College, a Bachelor of Mass Communications from Texas State University, a Master of Organizational Leadership and Ethics, and a Doctor of Leadership and Higher Education from St. Edward’s University. Daniel received the St. Edward’s University Presidential Award in April 2023. Daniel has served in nonprofit leadership roles as the Executive Director for INROADS/Central Texas, Inc. and led fundraising development campaigns for the San Marcos Education Foundation.

Anna Herd is a community volunteer and mother of two who recently served on Texas Book Festival’s Board of Advisors. She formerly worked for American Campus Communities and the Seton Medical Center. Since moving to Austin in 2004, Anna has served on the Elizabeth Ann Seton Board, the Springhouse Foundation Board of Trustees, The Dell Children’s Trust, and the YMCA Camp Moody Leadership Advisory Council. In 2018, she co-chaired the Explore Austin Quest for the Summit gala. Community First! Village, The Trail Conservancy, Austin Diaper Bank, and St. Andrew’s Episcopal School are some of her favorites for volunteer work. Anna has an MBA from the Tulane School of Business and a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University. In her downtime, Anna manages and writes for Calling All Explorers, her outdoor travel blog.

 Annie Jacob serves on the Friends of the Children Austin Board of Directors. She is a teacher, volunteer, and advocate for children in disadvantaged environments. Previously an elementary teacher in Richmond, California, Annie Jacob understands the importance of building sustained and nurturing relationships with youth. As the nation recognizes and expands opportunities for diversity, equity, and inclusion, the Jacob family is leading to ensure children facing adversity are recognized, acknowledged, and prioritized. Annie just had a baby in November of 2023 and has three other children.

Ann Jerome has extensive experience at the leadership level of several non-profit organizations serving most recently as the President & CEO of Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas. An Austinite since 2008, Ann has been involved in many charitable organizations including Ronald McDonald House Charities, the American Heart Association, and Explore Austin to name a few. Having spent decades in the staff role, she is excited to lend her expertise as part of a high-performing board where she can add HR & administrative knowledge, fundraising & development support, and program perspective. In her spare time, you can find Ann on a tennis court or heading off on an adventure with her husband, Brad. Before launching her career in the non-profit space, Ann worked at both Brentano’s Books and Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis while in college at the University of Memphis. To this day, one of her most proud parenting wins was instilling a passion for reading in her two adult sons who are now living in India and Austin.

Each new member possesses a deep passion for literacy and a dedication to advancing Texas Book Festival’s mission. Their diverse backgrounds and expertise will contribute significantly to our strategic vision and initiatives.

“We are thrilled to welcome these accomplished individuals to our Board of Directors,” said Marianne DeLeón, Texas Book Festival CEO. “Their expertise and commitment to literature will be invaluable as we continue to expand our impact and reach within the literary community. We look forward to working together to further our mission of promoting literary excellence and fostering a love of reading.”

As members of the Board of Directors, Dr. Guerrero, Herd, Jacob, and Jerome will play vital roles in guiding our strategic direction, fundraising efforts, and program development. Please join us in welcoming these talented individuals to the Texas Book Festival family.

Ann Jerome

Ann Jerome has extensive experience at the leadership level of several non-profit organizations serving most recently as the President & CEO of Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas. An Austinite since 2008, Ann has been involved in many charitable organizations including Ronald McDonald House Charities, the American Heart Association, and Explore Austin to name a few. Having spent decades in the staff role, she is excited to lend her expertise as part of a high-performing board where she can add HR & administrative knowledge, fundraising & development support, and program perspective. In her spare time, you can find Ann on a tennis court or heading off on an adventure with her husband, Brad. Before launching her career in the non-profit space, Ann worked at both Brentano’s Books and Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis while in college at the University of Memphis. To this day, one of her most proud parenting wins was instilling a passion for reading in her two adult sons who are now living in India and Austin.

Anna Herd

Anna Herd is a community volunteer and mother of two who recently served on Texas Book Festival’s Board of Advisors. She formerly worked for American Campus Communities and the Seton
Medical Center. Since moving to Austin in 2004, Anna has served on the Elizabeth Ann Seton Board, the Springhouse Foundation Board of Trustees, The Dell Children’s Trust, and the YMCA Camp Moody Leadership Advisory Council. In 2018, she co-chaired the Explore Austin Quest for the Summit gala. Community First! Village, The Trail Conservancy, Austin Diaper Bank, and St. Andrew’s Episcopal School are some of her favorites for volunteer work. Anna has an MBA from the Tulane School of Business and a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University. In her downtime, Anna manages and writes for Calling All Explorers, her outdoor travel blog.

Dr. Daniel Guerrero

Dr. Daniel Guerrero is the former mayor of San Marcos, Texas. He holds degrees from Austin Community College, Texas State University, and St. Edward’s University. Dr. Guerrero currently serves as an assistant professor of business and the MBA Program Chair at Concordia University – Texas. In addition to his faculty role, he is a senior business development consultant for J.L. Powers & Associates. Dr. Guerrero serves as a regional leader on the Austin Area Research Organization board of directors.