Lineup Sneak Peek: Fifteen Authors presenting at the 2018 Texas Book Festival

We are thrilled to give you a sneak peek at our 2018  Texas Book Festival Lineup! These fifteen authors are set to present their books over the Festival Weekend, October 27 and 28, in and around the Texas State Capitol in downtown Austin.

We’ll reveal our full lineup of authors presenting at the 2018 Festival in August—in the meantime, you can catch all TBF news and announcements by signing up for our newsletter, and following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

 

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Alexander Chee – How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

Bestselling author of  The Queen of the Night, Alexander Chee, has now put himself on the map as the next great essayists of his generation with How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, his first work of nonfiction. In a collection of essays about his life, Chee details events both deeply impactful to him, like the death of his father, and to the nation, like the AIDS crisis, and 9/11. With a voice that is both commanding and honest, Chee stuns in his nonfiction debut.

 

Alfredo Corchado – Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexian-American Migration

The second book from Mexican-American journalist Alfredo Corchado, Homelands tells the story of Mexican immigration through three decades. Centered around four friends, an activist, an entrepreneur, a lawyer, and Alfredo himself, Corchado tracks the changes and challenges of  immigration through their relationships with one another. Homelands is both a beautiful story about friendship and required reading for our current political state. Corchado is currently the Mexico City bureau chief of The Dallas Morning News.

 

Erin Entrada Kelly – You Go First

We are proud to welcome Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly to the 2018 Festival. Author of several middle grade novels, including Hello, Universe, Kelly’s latest novel, You Go Firstfollows the lives of young Charlotte and Ben, two kids with little in common outside of an online Scrabble game. Kelly’s gem of a book tackles bullying, family, and the ultimate struggle that is middle school in a beautiful and engaging way.

 

David Grann – The White Darkness

Acclaimed author and New Yorker staff writer David Grann follows his two bestselling books, Killers of the Flower Moon and The Lost City of Z, with a brand new true story of adventure. The White Darkness follows Henry Worsley and his fascination with Ernest Shackleton, the explorer who attempted to be the first person to reach the South Pole and cross Antarctica on foot. Grann brings an impossible story to life with a powerful prose about a man and his obsessions.

 

Sandra Cisneros – Puro Amor 

We are proud to present much-beloved poet and author, Sandra Cisneros, winner of the American Book Award and acclaimed author of The House on Mango Street. Cisneros’s latest book is a bilingual blend of fiction and illustration about love, devotion, and a house full of animals. Sweet, poignant, and full of life, Puro Amor is illustrated throughout with the author’s original line drawings. 

 

Fatima Farheen Mirza – A Place for Us

The debut novel from Fatima Farheen Mirza, A Place For Us explores themes of family, sense of self, and belonging. The first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker’s new imprint, SJP for Hogarth, A Place for Us features a less-than-perfect family with less-than-perfect relationships. Parents struggle with the decisions of their children, daughters choose to marry for love and not tradition, and a son tries to make his way home. Brimming with both love and loss, Mirza writes with an eloquence deserving of praise.

 

V.E. Schwab – Vengeful

We are pleased to announce New York Times bestselling author of the Shades of Magic series, This Savage Song, and Our Dark Duet, and master of contemporary science fiction and fantasy, V.E. Schwab, will be attending the 2018 Texas Book Festival! Schwab’s newest is the highly anticipated sequel in her Villains series, Vengeful (following Vicious, which was re-released earlier this year).

 

Tommy Orange – There There

Breakthrough author Tommy Orange’s debut novel, There There, has been one of the most highly praised books of 2018 thus far. There There is a multi-generational story that follows the lives of twelve characters all headed to the Big Oakland Powwow for different reasons. A powerful book about the plight of the urban Native American, The New York Times has called it “groundbreaking” and “extraordinary.”

 

Mary Pope Osborne – Magic Tree House#30: Hurricane Heroes in Texas 

The 30th installment of Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series, Hurricane Heroes in Texas, series brings Jack and Annie to our own great state for the 1900 Hurricane in Galveston, Texas—the most devastating natural disaster in the history of the Western Hemisphere. Osborne’s historical fiction books for young readers has become an internationally-beloved and bestselling series and is supplemented by nonfiction companion books.

 

Tayari Jones – An American Marriage

New York Times Bestseller and a 2018 Oprah Book Club pick, Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage has been called “haunting … beautifully written” by the New York Times, and “A tense and timely love story’ . . . Packed with brave questions about race and class,” by People magazine. A stunning love story from the author of Silver Sparrow, An American Marriage is a brilliant as it is heartbreaking, following newlyweds Roy and Celestial as they begin to build a life together, only to have it torn apart by unforeseeable circumstances.

 

Chloe Benjamin – The Immortalists

From the author of The Anatomy of Dreams comes The Immortalists, one of the year’s first big bestsellers. The New York Times Book Review calls it, “A captivating family saga.” Benjamin’s novel follows the four Gold children whose lives are dictated by the prophecies of a traveling physic who claims to be able to predict the day someone will die. A novel of family and the power we give to our beliefs, The Immortalists is a stunner of a story.

 

Sandhya Menon – From Twinkle, With Love

New York Times bestselling Young Adult author of When Dimple Met Rishi, Sandhya Menon’s latest novel From Twinkle, With Love has been called “utterly charming” by NPR. Following aspiring filmmaker Twinkle Mehra as she chases her dreams—and her heart—Menon’s sophomore novel is just as perfect and endearing as her first. We are elated to welcome Menon to the Festival!

 

Leslie Jamison – The Recovering 

Bestselling author of The Empathy Exams, and columnist for the New York Times Book Review, Leslie Jamison’s latest book, The Recovering, is part memoir, part investigative work. Focused on addiction and the narrative surrounding it, Jamison includes her own story, along with others including John Berryman and Billie Holiday, in order to examine who we are and why we need. Keen observations and unique voice make for a starkly real story about addiction and recovery which Entertainment Weekly called “Achingly wise.”

 

Walter Mosley – John Woman

From the beloved author of 47, Down the River Unto the Sea, Blonde Faith, and Devil in the Blue Dress, comes a new literary novel, John Woman, the riveting tale of a young New Yorker who transforms himself into Professor John Woman after the death of his father and the disappearance of his mother. Author of more than forty-five works of fiction and nonfiction, Walter Mosley is one of the most prolific authors of our time.

 

Joe Holley – Hurricane Season: The Unforgettable Story of the 2017 Houston Astros and the Resilience of a City

Journalist and native Texan Joe Holley has written for The Washington Post, Texas Monthly, Columbia Journalism Review, and The Houston Chronicle. His latest work, Hurricane Season, follows the Houston Astros’ journey to their first-ever World Series win in 2017, following the devastation caused when Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast earlier that year. Chronicling both the story behind the team as well as the hearts of its players, Holley’s story is as bold and beautiful as the city of Houston itself.

Announcing our 2018 Festival Poster Artist!

 

We are thrilled to announce we have selected our 2018 Festival poster artist, Austin-based painter Valerie Fowler! Fowler’s oil painting, Spring, Everything Changes, will be featured on this year’s Festival poster and will represent our annual Festival Weekend.

Fowler’s career has spanned more than thirty years and includes a wide variety of works, from oil on canvas paintings to commissioned murals, CD art for local musicians, and even a fully illustrated 64 page book called “Ivy and the Wicker Suitcase,” to accompany a musical project written, recorded, and produced by her husband Brian Beattie. Fowler’s work most often explores the wildly diverse natural world of Texas and describes “a natural world of extreme beauty and vigor while also conveying nature’s sensitive vulnerability.”

“The Texas Book Festival is thrilled to feature Valerie Fowler’s work this year,” says Lois Kim, executive director of Texas Book Festival. “Her beautifully alive paintings convey the fantasy in our imaginations and the energy of what lies just beneath the surface. They perfectly capture the creative spirit of our Festival.”

The painting selected for our 2018 Festival poster features a gorgeous, surrealistic interpretation of Fredericksburg peach trees in bloom, evoking a sense of storybook wonder and the unique possibility of the Texas landscape.

“I hope my paintings bring recurring pleasure,” Fowler says. “Having a work of art you come back to is much like reading a favorite novel—every time you return to it, it takes you back to moments from earlier in your life: who you were before, who you’ve been since, and also gives you something new. When a painting keeps giving each time you come back to it, that’s part of what really makes it a successful painting.”

Our tradition of choosing a representative work by a Texas artist began in 1998, and the honor has been shared by acclaimed artists and photographers such as Lance Letscher, Julie Speed, Randal Ford, Dan Winters, Kate Breakey, and Jack Unruh.

“The Texas art community, I would say, is wide open, just like our skies, and we’re lucky to see so many diverse genres and types of art. The uniqueness is that there’s so much variety in Texas. Beyond even the differences in styles and influences between regions, you find a wide variety inside those regions—each city and area holds as much variety as the state itself, and the vastness of our state really lends itself to growing that variety.”

Join us this year on October 27 and 28 in downtown Austin for the 2018 Texas Book Festival!

 

Announcing the Recipients of our Harvey Relief Fund!

 

Last November over the 2017 Texas Book Festival Weekend, Festival-goers from all across the state helped us raise money to provide relief for school libraries affected by Hurricane Harvey. With matching grants from The Tocker Foundation and the Texas Book Festival, we were able to raise $10,000 to help five school libraries in Houston and the Gulf Coast area recover.

“These rebuilding grants are a wonderful example of the local community joining two Texas nonprofit literacy organizations to support Texas libraries in need. We are looking forward to seeing the new books on the shelves of these worthy schools.”  —Lois Kim, Executive Director

 

The five school libraries selected for funding are Aransas ISD Little Bay Primary and four
schools in Houston ISD: Forest Brook Middle School, Mitchell Elementary, Martinez Elementary, and Robinson Elementary.

Aransas ISD’s Little Bay Primary was heavily damaged during the storm and will not reopen. Its pre-kindergarten classrooms received substantial damage and all mentor texts for classroom libraries were lost. Funds will be used to purchase new classroom books for the 2018-2019 school year at Aransas ISD’s new campus, the Discovery Learning Center.

More than 20,000 books were destroyed in the four Houston ISD school libraries selected for funding. Forest Brook Middle School, Mitchell Elementary, Martinez Elementary, and Robinson Elementary will receive funds to help replace the books that were lost at each campus.

Thanks to you, these libraries will be able to replace books lost to flooding. 
Together, we keep our state #TXBookStrong!

Day of Sales at BookPeople: Buy a Book and Support the Texas Book Festival!

 

TBF Day of Sales

BookPeople in Austin, TX

Tuesday, May 29, 9am-11pm

Join us for Texas Book Festival’s annual Day of Sales at local Austin bookstore, BookPeople! On Tuesday, May 29, a portion of proceeds from all books sold at BookPeople will be donated to the Texas Book Festival. Buy a book and help support the Texas Book Festival as well as a great indie bookstore!

Not sure where to start? Check out our list of recent favorite reads! Whether you’re buying for yourself or someone else, we’ve got recommendations for every sort of reader here.

 

Lois recommends:

God Save Texas – Lawrence Wright

Essential reading for every Texan! Wright takes the reader on a highly entertaining journey through some of the most colorful aspects of Texas’s history and identity, made rich and meaningful through Wright’s personal experiences and reflections.

 

 

Chemistry – Weike Wang

Refreshingly acerbic in style, Weike Wang’s novel features a confused young Chinese-American scientist’s reluctance to stay on the path of achievement in both love and career.

 

 

 

 

Julie recommends:

Everyone Knows You Go Home – Natalia Sylvester

Beginning with the appearance of a dead father, this novel is about family truth and fiction, the ways in which the past plays on the present, and the experiences of families who immigrate north over the border between Mexico and the U.S.

 

 

The Line Becomes a River – Francisco Cantú

Cantú’s mesmerizing chronicle of his life as a border guard opens up an important perspective on the urgent conversation of migration over the Mexico/U.S. border.

 

 

 

 

Claire recommends:

This One Summer – Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

This graphic novel is the beautifully illustrated coming-of-age story of summer-best-friends Rose and Windy as they face the fragile transition from childhood to adolescence.

 

 

 

March – John Lewis

The March graphic novel trilogy is Congressman John Lewis’s riveting account of his first-hand experience with Civil Rights, from his childhood in rural Alabama to meeting Martin Luther King, Jr. to marching to Selma.

 

 

 

Maris recommends:

The Female Persuasion – Meg Wolitzer

Greer Kadetzky’s trajectory changes when she meets Faith Frank, a charming famous feminist, in her freshman year of college. This sharp, sweeping novel follows Greer on her journey to find purpose in her post-college life.

 

 

Brass – Xhenet Aliu

Desperate to escape her small working-class Connecticut town, Elsie saves up tips from her waitressing job. But her plans change when she meets the brooding Bashkim. Narrated in equal parts by Elsie and her daughter Luljeta, Brass is a sparkling debut.

 

 

 

Lydia recommends:

You Bring the Distant Near – Mitali Perkins

This gorgeous novel follows three generations of the Das women as they emigrate to New York, struggle with culture shock and keeping tradition, grieve, grow, raise children, become American, and learn—over and over again—how to love.

 

 

Picture Us in the Light – Kelly Loy Gilbert

Danny Cheng’s college plans seem set with a scholarship to his top choice art school and his work in an exhibit in a hip San Francisco gallery, but discovering long-hidden painful family secrets, as well as suppressing his feelings for his best friend and his guilt over his part in a recent tragedy threaten to derail his future.

 

 

 

Lea recommends:

The Terrible Two – Mac Barnett

Great for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid or the reluctant reader in your life, this series follows two best friends/ pranking partners whose hijinks will have readers laughing out loud!

 

 

 

Grandma’s Purse – Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Great for talking about family history and connections with grandma! Kids and adults alike will love these beautiful illustrations.

Announcing 2018 Library Grant Recipients!


The Texas Book Festival is proud to announce it is awarding $100,000 in Texas Library Grants to libraries across the state.

Promoting literacy and strengthening Texas libraries have been primary components of the Texas Book Festival’s mission since our founding in 1995.

Since 1996, the Texas Book Festival has funded 1,121 library grants totaling more than $3 million to more than 600 public libraries in our state.

This funding, which comes largely from generous donations made by Festival supporters, enables libraries to share the diversity and breadth of literature with their entire communities.

Strong libraries foster strong communities. We’re grateful for the opportunity to support libraries as they find innovative ways to engage their patrons and encourage literacy in Texas.

2018 Texas Book Festival Library Grant Recipients

1. Allen Public Library
2. Alpine Public Library
3. Bandera County Public Library
4. Benbrook Public Library
5. Bonham Public Library
6. Boyce Ditto Public Library
7. Camp Wood Public Library
8. Charlotte Public Library
9. Cleburne Public Library
10. Cockrell Hill Public Library
11. Cooke County Library
12. Cross Plains Public Library
13. Dickens County-Spur Public Library
14. Dickinson Public Library
15. Dripping Springs Community Library
16. Driscoll Public Library
17. Elgin Public Library
18. Fannie Brown Booth Memorial Library
19. Flower Mound Public Library
20. Harrington Library
21. Henderson County Library
22. Hondo Public Library
23. Hutto Public Library
24. Judy B. McDonald Public Library
25. Lake Travis Community Library District
26. Little Elm Public Library
27. Longview Public Library
28. Lubbock Public Library – Mahon
29. Marathon Public Library
30. Mary Lou Reddick Public Library
31. McAllen Public Library
32. McMullen Public Library
33. Mesquite Public Library
34. Mt. Enterprise Library
35. Orange Public Library
36. Palacios Library, Inc.
37. Pasadena Public Libraries
38. Pflugerville Public Libraries
39. Pottsboro Area Library
40. Roberta Bourne Memorial Library
41. Sam Fore Jr. Public Library
42. Smithville Public Library
43. Stewart C. Meyer Harker Heights Public Library
44. T.L.L. Temple Memorial Library
45. Westworth Village Public Library
46. White Rock Hills Library
47. White Settlement Public Library
48. Whitehouse Community Library

 

How Grant Money Will Be Used

2018 grants target a mix of needs. Several libraries receiving a Texas Book Festival grant will expand their collection of Spanish and bilingual books, including Cockrell Hill Public Library, located in a city where 91% of residents are Latino, but only one eighth of the library’s current collection serves the needs of bilingual and Spanish-speaking families and individuals.

Other libraries will expand their audiobook collections, replacing collections currently held on decaying cassette tapes. Bandera County Public Library, for instance, will use its Texas Book Festival grant money to serve special needs students in their community who listen to audiobooks for educational and personal enrichment.

Many library grantees are rural, including Roberta Bourne Memorial Library, the only library in its area within 300 square miles. With its Texas Book Festival grant, the library will replace out-of-date and worn out books and update their collections which serve as an important resource for the local population, 29% of which is below the poverty line.

“The books and resources housed within public libraries across Texas should be celebrated, maintained, and updated,” says Lois Kim executive director of the Texas Book Festival. “The Texas Book Festival is committed to continuing to listen to what experienced and dedicated librarians across the state tell us they most need to best serve their communities.”

Event: GOD SAVE TEXAS Book Launch with Lawrence Wright!

Join us as we celebrate the official launch of GOD SAVE TEXAS, the highly anticipated new book from Pulitzer Prize-winning Texas writer Lawrence Wright!


What:
Lawrence Wright speaking about and signing God Save Texas

When: Tuesday, April 17 at 7pm. Doors at 6pm.

Where: Central Presbyterian Church, 200 E 8th St, Austin, TX 78701

Hosted by: Texas Book Festival and Austin Film Festival. BookPeople is the bookseller for this event.

Book Tickets: Free admission with the purchase of a copy of God Save Texas. Book Tickets will be available, as space allows, at the door.

Books will be received at the event. Seating is first come, first serve.

General admission tickets are also available. General admission tickets will be available online through Monday, April 16. As of Tuesday, April 17, they will be available at the door, as space allows.

All ticket purchases support Texas Book Festival and Austin Film Festival, your local cultural arts nonprofits committed to keeping Austin interesting.

Can’t attend the event? Signed copies of the book are available to pre-order from BookPeople. They ship worldwide!

 


The Texas Book Festival and the Austin Film Festival are proud to present Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright in celebration of the launch of his highly anticipated new book, God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State. Wright will appear in conversation with AFF Executive Director Barbara Morgan at Central Presbyterian Church.

Admission is free with the purchase of a copy of God Save Texas from TBF and AFF. General admission tickets are also available. A book signing will follow the talk. Additional copies of the book will be available for sale at the event, courtesy of BookPeople.

About God Save Texas

In the summer of 2017, The New Yorker ran “America’s Future is Texas,” an excerpt of God Save Texas that caught massive national attention. Here, now, is the full story, a profound portrait of our Lone Star State that explores the history, culture, and politics of Texas the way only a native—and a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and journalist—can.

Join us for a conversation with Wright that digs deep into the heart of Texas and all of its complicated, contradictory, controversial glory. Wright holds up our stereotypes for rigorous scrutiny, examining everything from our kingdom of oil to our technology exports; our blue cities to our red state; our economic growth to our income disparity; and much more. If what happens here is what happens in the nation, then what, exactly, is going on? And what’s to come?

About Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of nine previous books of nonfiction, including In the New World, Remembering Satan, The Looming Tower, Going Clear, Thirteen Days in September, and The Terror Years, and one novel, God’s Favorite. His books have received many prizes and honors, including a Pulitzer Prize for The Looming Tower. He is also a playwright and screenwriter. He is a longtime resident of Austin.


Join us for this big conversation about Texas.
Free Admission With The Purchase of GOD SAVE TEXAS.

Thank you for supporting your local cultural arts nonprofits!

 

 

Celebrate Black Literature: A Q&A with Austin Public Library Director Roosevelt Weeks

Join us in celebrating Black History Month! For the month of February, Texas Book Festival is working to recognize Black History Month by highlighting black Texas authors, readers, and notable contributors to the literary community in a series of blog posts. So far, we’ve had contributions from  TBF Community Ambassador Peggy Terry who shared a fantastic list of books coming out in 2018, award-winning children’s author and illustrator Don Tate who took the time to answer some questions, and Dr. Rosalind Oliphant Jones, the founder of the Austin African American Book Festival and the Folktales Black Women’s Literary Society.

Today, we’re excited to present wisdom from new Austin Public Library director Roosevelt Weeks, who comes to APL from the Houston Public Library system (where he was the much-beloved Deputy Director of Administration) and started in his new position last September. Weeks, a veteran of several Texas libraries, is a brilliant addition to our Austin literary community and we look forward to working alongside him in his exciting new role!

Also, we highly recommend checking out the Celebration of Diverse Literary Voices of Texas at the new Central Library (Living Room, 6th floor) on February 24, 2018 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., presented by the Austin Public Library and KAZI Book Review for the second year running.

Join notable Texas authors (including several previous Texas Book Festival authors) for “author readings as well as panel discussions on cultural diversity, African American education, Mexican American literature and social justice in literature.”

We’ll see you there!

 

What drew you to pursue a career in libraries?

I was volunteering at the Pasadena Public Library providing computer training to customers. A customer told me she needed help learning Microsoft Word so she could get a promotion on her job. I worked with her for about 3 weeks and she came in the library one day and told me she got the job! At this point, I realize the importance of libraries and what they mean to the community.

 

What’s your favorite part of working in the library system? What are some of the most important roles libraries play in Austin (and Texas at large) today?

Meeting people with different background and culture. I love getting out into the community and talking about the importance of reading and the impact libraries how on communities.

 

What are you most looking forward to in your position here at APL?

Working with the various community and community leaders in identifying needed programs and services. Every community is different and I don’t believe in providing cookie-cutter programs and services. Programs and services should be meaningful and life changing.

 

What advice would you give to young black people considering a library degree and career?

If you want to make a difference in your community, a library career is for you. The pay will not make you rich, but it will give you a decent living. There are not enough librarians of color and we need more of them. Libraries and library workers should represent the community they serve. It makes a difference when you walk into a library and you see people that look like you and understand some of the challenges you face.

 

Is there anything you wish more people knew about APL (or even about libraries in general)? What programs/ events do you want to highlight/ make sure Austinites don’t miss?
Libraries are open and free to everybody from all walks of life. If you are looking for ways to start a business, we can help. If you are looking to develop a new skill, we can provide with the resources. If you are looking for entertainment, we have movies and programs from many genres and cultures. If you are looking for a good book, we have millions waiting for you! All of our library locations are safe and welcoming for you to come in to have meetings or just to relax. Finally, all Austinites must come visit our New Central Library. It is six floors of pure delight and excitement, but describing the Central Library makes it hard to do it justice. You must come visit to really appreciate it.

 

What are you reading right now? What are some of the books coming out in 2018 you’re most looking forward to?

I am currently reading We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled by Wendy Pearlman and Thursday Night Lights by Michael Hurd (a 2017 Texas Book Festival author). I am looking forward to reading The President Is Missing by James Patterson and Bill Clinton, and Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosely.

Celebrate Black Literature: A Q&A With Dr. Rosalind Oliphant Jones

Join us in celebrating Black History Month! For the month of February, Texas Book Festival is recognizing Black History Month by highlighting black Texas authors, readers, and notable contributors to the literary community in a series of blog posts. So far, we’ve had contributions from  TBF Community Ambassador Peggy Terry, who shared a fantastic list of books coming out in 2018, and award-winning children’s author and illustrator Don Tate who took the time to answer some questions.

Today, we’re excited to say we got to ask some questions of Austin legend Dr. Rosalind Oliphant Jones, the founder of the Austin African American Book Festival and the Folktales Black Women’s Literary Society, which grew out of her fantastic independent bookstore Folktales (which closed in 1999). Oliphant Jones has brought countless award-winning and best-selling black authors to Austin both through her bookstore and the AABF, from Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet Gwendolyn Brooks to YA author sensation Angie Thomas, whose debut novel spent more than 40 weeks at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. Oliphant Jones has done immeasurable work for our community.

The 12th annual Austin African American Book Festival (AABF) will take place June 23, 2018 at the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural, and Genealogy Center. Don’t miss this vibrant, one-of-a-kind event!

 

The African American Book Festival Committee (L to R): Peggy Terry, Carol Wright, AABF Founder and Director Rosalind Oliphant Jones, and Anne Boyd

 

Texas Book Festival: What inspired you to start the Austin African American Book Festival?

Rosalind Oliphant Jones: When, in December 1999, it made good business sense to close the doors to Folktales, the Black themed bookstore I launched in the Austin area, I was left both devastated and relieved. I had given so much of myself to this venture, but even though I was exhausted and broke, none of that tarnished my love of books.

Longtime supporters constantly asked if I planned to reopen or if I was ever going to do any more author events. While I had no plans to reopen a full service operation I was organizing a few things here and there:  The Folktales Black Women’s Literary Society was going strong, I organized the Afrocentric Book Club at the high school where I was then teaching, and I also hosted a few author signings and book events around town.

From there, I saw the pioneering Harlem Book Fair, which has been held annually for the past 2 decades, as the creative impetus to start something similar and just as meaningful and influential here.

TBF: How has your experience opening and running Folktales, a successful community bookstore, informed your experience co-founding and running the AABF?

ROJ: Last year marked my 25th year as a bookseller! One thing I realize about great booksellers is they don’t just sell books; they also sell and cultivate a wonderfully multifaceted literary experience.

What we have been able to do with the festival is appeal to a reader’s desire to connect with authors both beloved and newly discovered and to share a kinship with readers in search of that same connection. There is so much excitement in meeting authors and hearing them discuss their work, and with Folktales and the Austin African American Book Festival, we have facilitated space for hundreds of authors to engage with readers in this community. I am really proud of that.

TBF: What’s your favorite part of interacting with authors and readers (through Folktales, the Austin African American Book Festival, Folktales Black Women’s Literary Society, and in any other ways)?

ROJ: I am absolutely fascinated by the work writers do. I am curious to know what their inspirations are, their favorite books, other authors they know, and more!

Back in 1994, Austin Community College brought the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks to town. Folktales hosted a book signing for her and there was also a private dinner in her honor. I asked so many questions, all of which she graciously answered! At one point, in the midst of our conversation, which included lots of laughing, she looks at me and says something like, “You ask questions like that of a writer.” It was a goldenmoment for sure! This is just one unforgettable moment I have experienced while doing this very rewarding work. There are so many other wonderful stories I could relay about my interactions with writers and readers.

 

TBF: What do you look for when inviting authors and speakers to the AABF?

ROJ: It’s hard for me to put into words what we look for when putting together our festival. With a circle of very smart, charismatic friends who read across genres, we gather for tea or coffee or lunch to discuss books, brainstorm ideas, and create what has, for the last 11 years, culminated into something we believe has been very special and worthwhile for the community.

 

TBF: You’re someone who’s been a major community leader in promoting and supporting black literature and media for some time. Have you seen a shift the ways major publishing houses (and Hollywood) produce or respond to black stories?

ROJ: The world is constantly shifting and publishing houses are no different. When Folktales opened in 1992, it was the “Age of Terry McMillan.” Her first two novels Mama and Disappearing Acts were popular, but then came Waiting to Exhale and the success of that book jolted the publishing industry. Suddenly, the masses realized what many of us already knew: Black people buy books! As a result, we saw this wonderful proliferation of more Black authors getting publishing deals. We saw Black centered products like greeting cards, gift wrap, novelty items, T-shirts—it was thrilling to behold! Unfortunately, by the year 2000, things started slowly winding down. We saw more bookstores closing and some publishers began shifting their focus from a more varied landscape of black literature to a narrower emphasis on urban fiction.

There is talk that we are about to witness another renaissance! The excitement surrounding the Black Panther movie has certainly been contagious! And the fact that it has its origins in comic books and graphic novels counts it as a definite plus for the literary world as well.

 

TBF: Could you share an anecdote or two about the AABF?

ROJ: A powerful moment for me was the year historian Dr. Arnold Rampersad was our keynote speaker. Dr. Rampersad is celebrated for his acclaimed biographies on Langston Hughes, Jackie Robinson, and Ralph Ellison. He was extremely complimentary of the festival and in his opening remarks had created this beautiful tapestry connecting all the authors on program. Later, when we were walking through the museum, he asked me, “Where are the children, where are the youth?”

It revealed a troubling omission, as we had planned that particular festival with little attention to youth programming. It was an oversight we have worked very hard not to repeat.

TBF: What are you reading right now? What book or two (or more are you most looking forward to this year?

ROJ: I hope to complete the Old Testament by mid-year. I am in the book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 18. I just finished Priscilla Shirer’s devotional Awaken: 90 Days with the God Who Speaks, which was uplifting.

I am also loving and learning from the fabulous never before published photographs and interesting backstories in Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives.

I just picked up Ta-Nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power, which I am looking forward to reading it as well as all the books I am told I will be inspired to read as I make my way through it!

I expanded the health section in my library after I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016. I am all about being a healthy and informed survivor! I just re-read The Immoral Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, which provided far too many lessons to recount here. I am also making plenty of highlights and notes in the margins of my copies of The Metabolic Approach to Cancer by Dr. Natasha Winters and Jess Higgins Kelley and The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

I cannot wait to be among the first to read Zora Neale Hurston’s book Barracoon: The Story of the Last Slave, which is due out in May, and I am also looking forward to Angie Thomas’ sophomore release, On the Come Up, in June.

Celebrate Black Literature: A Q&A with Don Tate

The Texas Book Festival Celebrates Black Literature! For the month of February, the Texas Book Festival is celebrating Black History Month by highlighting black Texas authors, readers, and notable contributors to the literary community in a series of blog posts. Last week, TBF Community Ambassador Peggy Terry shared a fantastic list of books coming out in 2018 that she recommends reading, and today, award-winning children’s author and illustrator Don Tate has taken the time to answer some questions we had for him. In addition to being an award-winning author and the illustrator of numerous critically acclaimed books for children, Austinite Don Tate is an outspoken advocate for diversity in publishing, a founding host of The Brown Bookshelf, a Texas Book Festival author, and a long-time TBF supporter and volunteer.

When you’re finished reading here, we recommend you check out the fantastic kid lit blog The Brown Bookshelf, “a blog designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers, with book reviews, author and illustrator interviews.” The Brown Bookshelf’s 28 Days Later series for Black History Month features interviews with large number of amazing black authors and illustrators of children’s, middle grade, and young adult literature.

Happy reading!

 

 

Texas Book Festival: What draws you to Children’s literature? Was writing for kids a conscious choice or more the age group you felt inspired to speak to?

Don Tate: Early in my career, I worked at an educational publishing company. My job was to design and illustrate children’s basal books and teaching proucts. The job required some travel to library and literacy conferences. I was inspired by teachers and librarians, who were passionate about children’s literacy. I wanted in on that! Eventually, I illustrated a book for that publishing house called Retold African Myths, written by Eleanora E. Tate.  That was thirty-something years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I love using my art to tell stories for young people. Writing came much later, though—like twenty years later!

 

TBF: I know you’ve written about how, as a kid, you were drawn more to art and drawing than to reading (largely because of the terrible lack of black representation in literature when you were growing up). But how did you first get into art and illustration?

DT: I’ve been an artist as long as I’ve been on this earth. There wasn’t a moment when I accidentally discovered that I liked art. As a child, my hands were always busy drawing and making stuff. I made things like choo-choo trains and cars from empty toilet paper rolls. I created elaborate puppets from socks or from patterns I created. I created macramé wall hangings from twine and beads.  I always had some kind of project in the works. Thankfully, my mom supported my artistic endeavors, even when it meant tearing the house apart and putting it back together. I attended a vocational-technical high school. My core area of study was commercial and advertising art. While there, I became less interested in creating art for art’s sake, though. I liked creating art for a specific purpose: a magazine layout, a t-shirt design, a story! I liked commercial art, or narrative art.

 

TBF: What’s your illustration process look like? How does that compare to your writing process?

DT: My illustration and writing process are similar. When I visit schools, I tell kids that writing is similar to painting a picture. With a picture, I use a paintbrush, a pencil, or some other drawing tool. When I  write, I paint with words. I create worlds using very visual word choices.

With my illustrations, I begin with a rough draft. Same with a written manuscript. The first draft of an illustration or a manuscript is messy. But that’s okay, that draft is like a lump of clay that I can then mold into a story. Because my books focus on history, writing and illustrating both require a lot of research. And before any of that reaches my editor’s eyes, I revise my words and illustrations many times.

 

TBF: What sort of stories do you look for in your writing and/or illustrating? What are some of the elements that you were drawn to in past books you’ve written and illustrated?

DT: I like stories about little-known people who’ve done great things in the face of adversity. These stories inspire me. In my book,  It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw (Lee & Low), which I wrote, a homeless man and former slave with no art training becomes one of the most important outsider artists in the country. In Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (Peachtree), which I wrote and illustrated, an enslaved poet becomes the first African American in the south to get a book published, at a time when it was against the law to teach a black man to read. With Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth (Charlesbridge), which I also wrote and illustrated, a weak and sickly child grows up to become known as the Father of Bodybuilding and “The Strongest Man on Earth.” These men overcame great obstacles to achieve success. These stories inspire kids to work hard and never give up.

 

TBF: Tell us about your work on the kid lit blog, The Brown Bookshelf:

DT: The Brown Bookshelf was started by YA authors Varian Johnson and Paula Chase-Hyman. They wanted to start an online initiative to support African American children’s book creators, whose works often fly under the radar of the publishing industry. I was invited  to join a whole team of writers and illustrators to contribute to the blog. Together, we work to shine a light on the myriad of diverse voices creating books for young people. February is when we host our “28 Days Later” campaign, where we highlight an African American book creator each day of the month with interviews and guest post. Be sure to check out our 2018 campaign!

 

TBF: I know you do a lot of school visits and events with kids: what’s it like getting to meet your audience like that? What’s one of the best stories that’s come out of interacting with your young readers?

DT: I love meeting my young readers. While they are excited about meeting me, I am equally as excited to meeting them. I’m thankful to school librarians for bringing us all together—authors and illustrators and readers. I’ve had a lot funny and interesting experiences while visiting schools, however one of the most memorable moments happened this past October at the Texas Book Festival. Students at Brushy Creek Elementary School in Round Rock sang a tribute to me and my book Strong as Sandow:

 

TBF: What advice would you give to young authors and illustrators of color? What encouragement?

DT: Polish your craft. Writers: Read and write a lot. And stop worrying about having to find an illustrator, that’s what publishers do. Illustrators: Draw a lot, practice. There is more of an emphasis on diversity in publishing lately, so opportunities are broadening. I’m seeing more faces of color on the covers of children’s books, lately. Most times, however, the creators of those books are not People of Color.  Everyone is answering that call for more diversity, so we’re easily marginalized.  So, Author or Illustrator of Color—get to creating, your voice is needed. While it’s important for a Black child to see Black people represented in the books they read, it’s equally important that they know Black people write and illustrate the books they read. They know this by opening that book jacket flap and seeing a book creator that looks like them.

 

TBF: What, at least to you, is the best part of writing for kids?

DT: Supporting literacy. Knowledge is power, and therefore books are powerful.

 

TBF: What are you working on now?

DT: I have several books on the publication horizon that I illustrated:

Par-tay! Dance of the Veggies (and Their Friends)

Written by the legendary Eloise Greenfield and published by Alazar in April, 2018.

Stalebread Charlie and the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band

This book, written by Michael Mahin and published by Clarion in July, 2018, is the fictionalized account of the true story seven homeless street kids who helped inspire a new genre of music called spasm.

No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas

Written by Tonya Bolden and published by Knopf in October, 2018.

So that’s it for me this year—dancing kids, dancing veggies, and potatoes galore!