Anna serves as the Texas Book Festival’s Operations Coordinator. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a double major in Asian Cultures and Languages and English literature alongside a certificate in creative writing. After studying in Indonesia for a summer, Anna spent two years teaching English in Taiwan through the Fulbright program. Her favorite genres include experimental fiction, urban fantasy, graphic novel, poetry, and memoir. Alongside her literary interests, Anna enjoys drawing, learning languages, and spending time with her cat.
Calling book lovers everywhere! The Texas Book Festival is back and better than ever, and we’re asking for your help to put on the best book festival yet. Our volunteer registration form is now LIVE, and we’d love for you to join us November 5-6! We are proud to be FREE for all to attend, but we need your help to share our mission. If you are passionate about literacy, culture, and community, you would make a perfect volunteer.
As a volunteer, you’ll get to:
- Be a part of the ace TBF team
- Chose the times and venues that work best for you
- Help to produce programming and connect with your favorite authors
- Spread the joy of reading and all things books
Plus, you’ll get a free volunteer T-shirt. We couldn’t do a fraction of the programming we have available each year without the help of our wonderful volunteers, and we’d love for you to join the team.
We can’t wait to see you! Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns.
Since 1996, the Texas Book Festival has featured many National Book Award longlisters, finalists, and winners. And TBF has for years partnered with the National Book Foundation, the awards’ presenter, to feature honorees at the annual Festival.
With the 2022 National Book Award longlist announcement around the corner in early fall, the TBF staff got to thinking about some of the NBA honorees and winners featured in Festival lineups over the years, and what their critically acclaimed works meant to us. See our selections below.
Michelle Hernandez, School & Community Programs Coordinator
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Winner, National Book Awards 2018 for Young People’s Literature
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2020
Elizabeth Acevedo’s debut YA book, The Poet X, introduced us to a much-needed voice in children’s literature. A novel written completely in verse, it is, by far, one of the most powerful examples of this style of storytelling I have come across.
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Finalist, National Book Awards 2016 for Young People’s Literature
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2017
Jason Reynolds’ Track Series will always hold a special place in my heart as the soundtrack, if you will, of a series of Texas road trips my husband, daughter, and I enjoyed a few years ago. Ghost, the first book in the series, is filled with moments of hilarity and tenderness and is my favorite of the bunch.
Ke’ara Hunt, Communications & Marketing Coordinator
The American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Longlist, National Book Awards 2018 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2018
This novel is deeply moving and I couldn’t help but think about the effects of America’s criminal justice system on the lives of Black families. The marriage between Celestial and Roy is challenged (to say the least) and you cannot help but mentally fight for them – as a couple and as individuals. The quote that really hit me in the feels: “A marriage is more than your heart, it’s your life. And we are not sharing ours.”
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Winner, National Book Awards 2016 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2019 and 2021
Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad left me breathless. As a Black woman, I felt a kinship with protagonist Cora as bondage is a painful part of my ancestors’ history. Though this is a fictional story, it’s engraved in realism and is a reminder that slavery is not just a part of Black history, but is America’s history and foundation. There’s an unfortunate reverberation of its roots in our present day. I also highly recommend the series adaptation on Amazon Prime Video!
Claire Burrows, Deputy Director
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
Finalist, National Book Awards 2020 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2020
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw is a stunning reminder of the power of short stories. This debut collection about the internal, honest, and vulnerable lives of Black women and girls is impossible to put down.
Matrix by Lauren Groff
Finalist, National Book Awards 2021 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2020 and 2015
Lauren Groff came to the Texas Book Festival in 2015 with the captivating and unsettling Fates and Furies, and Matrix continues to bring Groff’s powerful, sensual, and researching writing to the page in this historical novel.
Olivia Hesse, Event Production & Logistics Coordinator
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Winner, National Book Awards 1992 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 1996 and 2013
McCarthy’s sixth novel and breakthrough commercial success was a deserving winner of the 1992 National Book Award for Fiction as he captured the romanticism and wilderness of the Texas and Mexico frontiers. The coming of age touches on the powerful themes of struggling to adapt to modernizing world, love and loss, and our connection with nature. All that combined with complex characters and vivid descriptions of the American southwest will make it hard to put this book down.
Lois Kim, Executive Director
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Winner, National Book Awards 2013 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2013
James McBride brought this book and a band to the 2013 Texas Book Festival and mesmerized everyone with both, and won the National Book Award a couple of weeks later. The Good Lord Bird is hilarious (as much as a novel that concerns slavery can be), with incredible dialogue and characters. This title connects to another great TBF alum, with Ethan Hawke as a fiery John Brown in the adapted Hulu series.
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
Winner, National Book Awards 2019 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2019
Winner of the 2019 National Book Award, Trust Exercise is a novel that will stay with you long after you’ve finished, with its complex narrative structure, unreliable narrators, and layered treatment of adolescence, power, and abuse.
Matt Patin, Literary Director
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
Finalist, National Book Awards 2006 for Nonfiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2021, 2006, and more
Lawrence Wright—Austinite, Pulitzer Prize winner, and recipient of the Texas Writer Award—has visited the Festival many times. A session about his Going Clear (Knopf, 2013) was one of my favorites. But The Looming Tower, a definitive account of the events leading to 9/11, was what first got me hooked on his writing.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Longlist, National Book Awards 2020 for Nonfiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2010 and 2020
How We Got to the Moon: The People, Technology, and Daring Feats of Science Behind Humanity’s Greatest Adventure by John Rocco
Longlist, National Book Awards 2020 for Young People’s Literature
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2020
Author-illustrator John Rocco is a brilliant presenter—his multimedia session in 2020 was rich with gorgeous imagery that painted a story of the people, ideas, and technology that sent humankind into space.
Susannah Auby, Development Manager
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
Finalist, National Book Awards 2019 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2019
Moroccan American Driss Guerraoui is killed in a hit and run on a Mojave Desert street. His story and the mystery around his death is processed through the alternating perspectives of the family members and other members of the community. Laila Lalami’s keen attention to detail and beautiful telling of one immigrant family’s struggle to make a life in America.
Disappearing Earth by Julia Philips
Finalist, National Book Awards 2019 for Fiction
Featured Author, Texas Book Festival 2019
This is not the Russia you have visited in books, movies, and travel. Set in remote Kamchatka Penninsula, Disappearing Earth follows the vanishing of not just two young girls but also the indigenous culture through the perspectives of the people whose lives are affected by the tragedy.
The mission of the National Book Foundation is to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture.
Helen began her career as an equity trader in Houston, then Dallas, for two banks and various hedge funds in Texas. After moving to Austin in 1996, she has remained involved in the Junior League and then joined the Helping Hand Home as a volunteer. She served on, and then chaired, the Grant Committee for the Women’s Fund with the Austin Community Foundation for many years. Her children attended St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin where she served as President of the Parents’ Association and then on the Board of Trustees. Helen then went to work, helping to establish I Live Here, I Give Here as the Non-Profit Coordinator. She has recently retired after 10+ years on the Board of Advisors with Literacy First, also serving as the Board Chair. She remains involved with many non-profits in Austin, as well as chairing the Community Outreach board with HSW Investment.
The Texas Book Festival is reading with pride to recognize LGBTQ+ lived experiences reflected and championed in the pages of great storytelling. Below is a list of our recommended pride reads to celebrate LGBTQ+ authors, literature, and culture! Tag us on social media at @texasbookfest and #readwithpride to let us know what you are reading for pride month.
I guess 1985 was a long time ago, making Jeanette Winterson’s debut novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit a classic. Winterson’s writing contains so much craft and beautiful imagery, while still being about the lives of real people. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a coming-of-age story about a young girl torn between religion and her own sexuality, told with humor and sadness. — Claire Burrows, Deputy Director
The Work Wife by Alison B. Hart (Preorder now)
I’m a sucker for stories about navigating the glitz, glamour, and sometimes glib Hollywood life. Even more so, I’m quite fond of stories about the folks behind-the-scenes who are just trying to get by while creating paths for the stars to shine. A job is a job – even while working in Tinsletown. I am looking forward to reading Alison B. Hart’s The Work Wife, a tale of a personal assistant walking the tightrope of life working for a movie mogul and his family. What would you do to get the job done? — Ke’ara Hunt, Communications and Marketing Coordinator
Chase Berggrun’s R E D is a book-length erasure of Bram Stoker’s Dracula which creates a new narrative of gender transition and selfhood. More than clever and thoughtful, the chapters of R E D drip of hurt and want, particularly in lines like “A detail in a pool of blood / the body gathered in an awkward kink / I dress myself in easy anything.” — Gavin Quinn, Programs and Financial Coordinator
Truman Capote’s first novel is a dreamy coming-of-age story set in a decaying Mississippi mansion. As always, Capote writes with great tenderness, and while the book isn’t actually an autobiography, the characters and themes of his life percolate in this early work. You can see a foreshadowing of the brilliant, humorous, and tragic legend he would ultimately become. — Susannah Auby, Development Manager
Leah Johnson’s debut novel tells the story of high school senior, Liz Lighty, and her unexpected quest to become prom queen, a very big deal in her prom-obsessed Indiana town. Liz doesn’t fit in but, despite her intense social anxiety, agrees to participate in the contest in hopes that the prize money will get her one step closer to attending her dream college and living the life she’d always dreamed about. Once Mack, the new girl in town and fellow prom queen contestant, enters the scene, the rom-com vibes begin. This book was such a joy to read and Liz Lighty might just be my favorite YA character of all time. — Michelle Hernandez, School and Community Programs Coordinator
I am not a graphic novel expert with a Ph.D. in the topic like our own Claire Burrows, but I really enjoyed Bechdel’s coming-of-age memoir in which Bechdel traces her journey to self-awareness that she is gay as well as her complex relationship with her closeted gay father. Poignantly told with humor and honesty, Bechdel details the perspective of a child coming into the knowledge of herself, her family, and the world. The musical was great also, which I took my then-14-year-old son to when the show came through town and we both loved it. — Lois Kim, Executive Director
Heartfelt and funny, this fictional—and Pulitzer Prize-winning— portrait of a midlife author balancing a career and revisiting his past was one of my favorites of 2017. Read it before the next book in the series—Less Is Lost—releases this fall. — Matt Patin, Literary Director
David Sedaris never fails to impress, and though I’m only halfway through this essay collection, I can easily say this is the most I’ve laughed at reading a book in a long time. Sedaris approaches blunders in life with eager eyes and a pen in his hand, ready to turn any embarrassment or tragedy into stand-up comedy. That being said, the essays are not without merit, and while you may laugh your way through them, you’ll also inevitably feel some sort of truth about the human experience that lingers on your mind for weeks following their conclusion. — Olivia Hesse, Event Production and Logistics Coordinator
Love volunteering with TBF, but want to do more? Not a volunteer and just want to get more involved with the Texas Book Festival? Look no further! TBF is looking for Volunteer Committee Chairs for multiple positions to help run the 2022 festival tents. Anyone can apply and everyone is welcome, we just ask that you have a passion for books and a desire to serve the literary community!
What is a Volunteer Committee Chair?
Volunteer Committee Chairs (VCCs) are an integral part of what makes the Texas Book Festival Weekend a successful annual event. We have 1-3 VCCs at each Festival venue in and around the Texas State Capitol. Each VCC or VCC team is in charge of a certain venue and the volunteers assigned to shifts at the venue.
Ideal VCCs are flexible, able to delegate tasks, have a can-do attitude, and are good at problem-solving on the spot. Some VCC positions require extra qualifications.
VCCs must be available during the entire Festival Weekend, have some flexibility during the week leading up to the Festival, and be able to attend monthly meetings leading up to the Festival beginning in June. These meetings are necessary for getting to know the other VCCs as well as for training in emergency protocols, learning the Festival layout, and other pertinent information.
Main Responsibilities Include*:
- Managing volunteers in their selected shifts at the assigned venue
- Coordinating the setup and breakdown of the assigned venue
- Welcoming Festival attendees and maintaining an inviting atmosphere
- Acting as a resource for Festival authors and moderators in the assigned venue
* Each VCC position will have slightly different responsibilities/schedule depending on their assigned tent.
We could not run the festival without the help of our amazing VCCs, and we’re excited to add new faces to our team! If you have any questions or are interested in becoming a VCC, please contact Olivia Hesse (email@example.com).
Olivia serves as the Texas Book Festival’s Event Production and Logistics Coordinator, responsible for organizing volunteers, general setup, and logistics for festival weekend. She holds bachelor’s degrees in English and Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, along with a Certificate in Creative Writing. She’s lived in the Austin area her whole life, is passionate about the art of storytelling in whatever form it may take, and served as the Events Production intern for TBF prior to joining full time. Her favorite book genres are literary fiction, personal essays, and fiction short stories. Outside of work you can find her running very slowly around Town Lake, reading at Zilker, or looking for the best vegetarian restaurants in town.
In celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander heritage month, the staff at Texas Book Festival presents some of our favorite AAPI stories. From love stories that transcend time, delicious recipes that come to life on Instagram, sound advice to navigate working on a K-drama, and more! Check out the full list below and follow us on social media (@texasbookfest) to let us know your AAPI recommendations!
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
Malinda Lo’s beautifully written, award-winning YA novel is a love story set in and around 1950s Chinatown. I was immediately drawn in by protagonist Lily’s story and fascinated by the navigation of the intersection of being both Chinese-American and queer during a time when it wasn’t safe to be either. If you want to take a deep dive into the author’s research and story after reading the book, I highly recommend you visit Malinda Lo’s blog. – Michelle Hernandez, School & Community Programs Coordinator
Flip the Script by Lyla Lee
Check out Texas author Lyla Lee’s Flip the Script. Not only is this a game-changing YA romance novel, but it’s also fun, sweet, and set in the world of K-dramas. Make sure to follow Lyla on Instagram for some of the best bookish social media out there. – Claire Burrows, Deputy Director
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
I have a soft spot for stories about stories — particularly if they’re about bringing people together. Trung Le Nguyen’s The Magic Fish centers on a son who is having trouble coming out to his mom as gay, but the pair navigate this unfamiliar gap in their relationship by reading fairy tales from the library. This tender premise is intimately brought to life with Nguyen’s monochromatic illustrations. – Gavin Quinn, Programs & Financial Coordinator
The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
A sweeping history of cancer from an expertly informed medical and scientific perspective, for certain, but also from a deeply human one. It’s precisely what I was searching for not long after my own family faced this “regal” malady, and it’s a book I sometimes recommend—when asked and when the time is right—to friends whose families have faced the same. – Matthew Patin, Literary Director
The Korean Vegan by Joanne Lee Molinaro
This year I’m shaking up my at-home meals! I’ve been vegan for nearly three years now but I’ve become way too comfortable with the recipes that I tend to cook up. I discovered Joanne’s videos on Instagram a year ago and I must say that they are a work of art! Every meal has a story and Joanne’s shared wisdom will not only make you hungry, but you will feel the urge to step into your kitchen to cook something that will make you feel good – body and soul. I cannot wait to test out these recipes! Check out this great compilation video of #KoreanAuntyGivesAdvice! – Ke’ara Hunt, Communications & Marketing Coordinator
The Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian
While this imaginative and riveting story has the Indian American coming of age experience at its heart, it also asks difficult questions about what parents will do to ensure the success of their offspring and how those fierce ambitions shape the children well into adulthood. This book is begging for deep discussions! – Susannah Auby, Development Manager
In celebration of National Poetry Month, the Texas Book Festival staff would like to share some of our favorite poems. Poetry is a great way to strengthen reading, writing, and listening skills for all age groups. It also helps us to think of new ideas and improve the way we think about old ones. At its core, poetry allows us to heal and weigh our hearts and our minds – amplifying the ways in which we communicate our feelings and tell our stories.
Below are just some of the poets who have left an impression on our team, but we would love to know what poems you recommend! Share your favorite poems with us on social media (Instagram/Twitter @texasbookfest and Facebook @texasbookfestival).
Aging, at all. I want that. And to fall
perhaps most honestly in love
beside the ocean, in a home I’ve paid
for by doing as I like…
Ke’ara Hunt, Communications & Marketing Coordinator: My obsession with rom-coms has a tight hold on the way I view my life and society. Sometimes I’ll sit in a coffee shop and imagine that I can read the thoughts of men or that I’ll graciously stumble upon the perfect macaroon to match my vibrant energy. It’s all harmless daydreaming, but it can be a little detrimental as I don’t exactly fit the description of a Nancy Meyers leading lady. This poem by Rio Cortez is a little reminder that it’s okay to love…love, but I have to remember to set my own scene and cast myself as the leading lady in this beautiful thing called life.
Goldenrod by Maggie Smith
“The Grand Scheme of Things”
Claire Burrows, Deputy Director: You’ve probably read or listened to Maggie Smith’s poem “Good Bones“, and wept. Smith’s poetry is beautiful and honest and personal and feels personal for me as the reader. Her poems are sweeping and focused at the same time. Her latest book Goldenrod will make you think and remember and imagine. The poem “In the Grand Scheme of Things” ends with the lines,
We say in the grand scheme of things
as if there were one. We say that’s not how
the world works as if the world works.
Customs by Solmaz Sharif
Gavin Quinn, Programs & Financial Coordinator: A book of traveling and the spaces in-between. What does it look like to live in one country, but to have strong roots in another? In addition to these things, this book is often a critique of social and poetry customs – consider the last lines of “Patronage”:
I said what I meant
but I said it
in velvet. I said it in feathers.
And so one poet reminded me
Remember what you are to them.
Poodle, I said.
And remember what they are to you.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Susannah Auby, Development Manager: Mary Oliver’s poems are filled with imagery that vivifies the natural world in all its beauty. Just when you are feeling as though everything is outside of your control, she takes you back to the one thing that is truly yours.
Michelle Hernandez, School & Community Programs Coordinator: When I was an elementary school teacher and it was time to read and teach and write poetry with my students, my worn copy of Eloise Greenfield’s Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems was always our favorite. When I became a mother, it was the book I used to introduce my daughter to poetry. On occasion, I reread the pages, savoring each verse, and falling in love over and over again.
My mama’s on the sofa sewing buttons on my coat
I go and sit beside her. I’m through playing with my boat
I hold her arm and kiss it ‘cause it feels so soft and warm
Honey, let me tell you that I LOVE my mama’s arm
I love to kiss my mama’s arm…
Lois Kim, Executive Director: Sometimes a poem is lovely to read by oneself, a private affair carried out curled up on a sofa, a private exchange between poet and reader. Sometimes a poem’s power is most felt when read by the poet in front of a lot of people, with hundreds following the peaks, valleys, and turns of the poem, feeling in their bones the simplicity and complexity in all that the poet and poem are saying and doing. I felt the latter when Carrie Fountain read “The Jungle” at our recently held Gala and recommend the former for any of the poems in her latest collection, The Life.
In motherhood I begin
to celebrate my own
as when I wake to find
I’ve slept through the night
and I feel a little healed
because sleeping is something
I didn’t learn how to do until
I was an adult…
“Poem for Jon” by Joaquín Zihuatanejo
Matthew Patin, Literary Director: Educator and spoken-word artist Joaquín Zihuatanejo was this month named the first poet laureate of the City of Dallas, and while exploring his work, I stumbled upon a gem that demonstrates that some of the most moving poetry is neither spoken nor written:
Shawn Bose is the Head of New Business for the Staffing Solutions of Indeed, the world’s leading job platform, where he leads the identification and development of new business opportunities and products. He began his career as an entrepreneur in 1998 building large web initiatives for clients from Harvard University to Southern New England Telephone. He then moved to Austin and received his MBA at The McCombs School of Business. There, he joined his classmates to develop uShip. While at uShip, Shawn led the Product Team for many years before taking over Global expansion. He established their European headquarters in Amsterdam and extended the platform’s reach to 18 countries across 5 continents. Shawn then founded OnFaith.co, an online community dedicated to empower people and organizations in the faith and spirituality ecosystem through technology. Finally, in addition to having served on the Board of TeXchange, he is one of the founders of The Catalyst Games, an organization inspiring startup communities across the country to focus on company culture and giving back to the community.