Q&A With Jamila Minnicks

We asked 2023 Texas Book Festival Author Jamila Minnicks a few questions about herself and her featured Festival title Moonrise Over New Jessup.

TBF: Why did you write your featured book? (What was your inspiration? Where did the idea start?)

JM: “My mother made sure that we had a complete picture of what it was like for her to grow up in Alabama. De jure segregation ruled the Jim Crow south during her youth, and she lived on the Black side of Demopolis, Alabama. She taught us that Demopolis was a place where my great-great grandfather Preston was one of the founders the home church where my family still worships today; where she vied with the same girl from first through twelfth grade for class valedictorian; where my grandfather, Daddy John, and his four brothers all built “big white houses on the corner” of the same block—each helping the other to construct their homes by hand; where my grandmother, Mama Bea, taught my mother to hold up her head, “high, but not to have her nose in the clouds,” and wrapped my mother in a big hug every day before she went to school. My mother talked about boyfriends and high school dances and fig trees bearing fruit in the yard and shooting a rifle with such precision they called her Annie Oakley. Demopolis was a community where people did for each other, shared nickels and dimes; a place where my great uncle O’Connor once claimed to push his Oldsmobile to “forty-five, forty-five miles per hour.” My family was certainly aware of the ever-present hostilities and dangers they faced. But Demopolis was a place where my family could be self-reliant and serve to better our community.

I grew up reading Moja Means One to M.C. Higgins the Great to classics by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez and Gwendolyn Brooks. When I announced that I wanted to be in the Air Force, my mother took me to meet living Tuskegee Airmen at the Chicago Air and Water Show, and I sat in the red-tailed plane they had on display. When I wanted to become a lawyer, she introduced me to Judge Ann Williams, the first Black woman to serve on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. My mother taught me to find people wherever I was, to build community, and to tell our complete stories.

When George Floyd’s murder circulated the internet, he became, to many, another unfortunate hashtag. I did not know George Floyd, although he could have been my older brother. But he was a part of my community, nonetheless. A man who had lived more life than the story of violence, destruction, and death portrayed and turned him into a body, a symbol, and deprived him of his life as a son, grandson, father, and friend. Even as he lay dying and calling out to his mother. And I started thinking about how the stories of our lives are so full, yet so quickly one-dimensionalized, minimized, then erased.

So I set out to write a short story about a fictional Black family around a holiday table debating what Black social progress really looked like during the time when the modern civil rights movement was taking shape. In that dynamic, Alice’s voice started to get lost ten minutes into writing. She was always a woman married to a man involved in The Movement. But she had her own opinions and motivations and magic, and Moonrise gave me the opportunity to explore her full, meaningful life in a novel. Moonrise also gave me the chance to consider New Jessup with its struggles and triumphs outside the traditional narratives of oppression and degradation. But this is Alice’s story because, without Black women like my mother, my aunts, my grandmother, there is no full accounting of our history.”

Jamila Minnicks’ novel Moonrise Over New Jessup (Algonquin Books, 2023), won the 2021 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, is a finalist for the 2023 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and was longlisted the 2023 Crook’s Corner Book Prize. Her short stories and essays are published in The Sun, CRAFT, Catapult, Blackbird, The Write Launch, and elsewhere, and her piece, Politics of Distraction, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Jamila’s work has been supported by the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Jamila is a graduate of the University of Michigan, the Howard University School of Law, and the Georgetown University Law Center. She lives in Washington, DC. You can see Minnicks at the 2023 Texas Book Festival this November 11–12!

2023 Updates to the Schedule

All updates to the 2023 Texas Book Festival Schedule and Author Lineup will be recorded here. The most accurate and up-to-date schedule is always our online schedule.

Author Cancellations

  • Charif Shanahan
  • Zusha Elinson
  • George Black
  • Paulette Jiles
  • Sonora Reyes
  • Rosa Beltrán
  • Monica Youn
  • Tim Z. Hernandez
  • Peter Turchi
  • Angie Thomas
  • Asale Angel-Ajani
  • Jess Row

Session Updates

  • Amanda Moore will be in conversation with Austin Noir editors Hopeton Hay, Scott Montgomery and Molly Odintz in the Tales From the Dark Side: Austin Noir panel.
  • Luis Alberto Urrea will now be in conversation with Roxane Gay, Angie Thomas and Sabir Sultan (of PEN America) in the PEN America Presents: Threats to Freedom of Expression panel.
  • Aaron H. Aceves will join Ali Hazelwood in conversation in the panel formerly titled “Ali Hazelwood in conversation about Check & Mate.” The panel is now titled “Ali Hazelwood and Aaron H. Aceves on Teenage Love, Angst, and Coming-of-Age.
  • Anastacia-Renee will replace Charif Shanahan on the Finding Freedom panel, joining KB Brookins in conversation with moderator Amanda Johnston.

Tent Relocation

Q&A With Ehigbor Okosun

We asked 2023 Texas Book Festival Author Ehigbor Okosun a few questions about herself and her featured Festival title Forged by Blood.

TBF: Why did you write your featured book? (What was your inspiration? Where did the idea start?)

EO: “All my life, I’ve loved reading. I didn’t have many toys growing up, but I was never in want for books–at the library, at school, the one or two my parents gifted me every year–books held special and precious places in my life. But so often, when I opened those pages, I saw characters who shared some of my personal characteristics or originated from one of my cultures were often caricatures at best and nonexistent at worst. So many fantastical and contemporary stories gave me hope, and helped me imagine how I could have a future beyond the difficulties of the post-colonial existence I’d been born into. But just as much as these stories lifted me up, they also often inflicted pain by refusing to acknowledge that people like me could exist within their worlds as whole, realized, complicated characters. So, when I set out to write Forged By Blood, I remembered that feeling. I wanted people to pick up this book and see themselves in ways they might not have had the opportunity to before–to be complicated, multi-faceted people dealing with questions of power and empire and whether peace was possible in a world governed by chaos and hatred. I also wanted to pay homage to the wealth of mythology stories I’d grown up with and to honour their legacy in my life as something to be proud of rather than shy away from.”

TBF: What is the last book you read, loved, and can’t stop recommending? What did you love about it?

EO: “I’ll cheat and talk about two books. The first last book I read was a re-read! Shirlene Obuobi’s On Rotation is a smart, lovely and heartfelt women’s fiction novel about a young medical resident navigating friendship, love, and her identity as a first generation Ghanian American. Loved it. The second last book was Moniquill Blackgoose’s To Shape A Dragon’s Breath–a fantastic novel about an Indigenous young woman who is working to raise a dragon amidst the people who colonized her people’s lands. I’ll cheat again and add S.L. Huang’s The Water Outlaws because it is a gender-bent love story to one of the four great Chinese novels, The Water Margin. S.L. gives you two varied female main characters who grapple with questions of morality, power matrices, and privileges. She also gives you two villains who inspire fear and excitement. Have I tempted you enough?”

TBF: What’s the first book you remember reading and who gave it to you? What inspired your love of reading / writing?

EO: “The first book I ever read was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My dad gave it to me when I was 2. The play that got me writing though was Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I read that at 7 and fell in love with writing and the idea that I could write.”

Ehigbor Okosun, or just Ehi, is an Austin-based author who writes speculative fiction, mystery thrillers, and contemporary novels for adult and YA audiences. Raised across four continents, she hopes to do justice to the myths and traditions she grew up steeped in, and honor her large, multiracial, and multiethnic family. She is a graduate of the University of Texas with degrees in Plan II Honors, Neurolinguistics, and English, as well as Chemistry and Pre-Medical studies, and is a Cynthia Leitich Smith Mentorship Award finalist. When she’s not reading, you can catch her bullet journalling, gaming, baking, and spending time with her loved ones. Forged By Blood, out on 8.8.23, is her debut novel. You can see Okosun at the 2023 Texas Book Festival this November 11–12!

Q&A With Matt Moore

We asked 2023 Texas Book Festival Author Matt Moore a few questions about himself and his featured Festival title Butcher on the Block: Everyday Recipes, Stories, and Inspirations from Your Local Butcher and Beyond.

TBF: Why did you write your featured book? (What was your inspiration? Where did the idea start?)

MM: As my last two books focused on BBQ and grilling, I wanted to find a way to combine those two subjects, without being limited to just one cooking method. With both time and thought, as it always takes, the idea started with my beginning, to my own family roots in the art of butchering. As the first line of the book reads, this is not a book about butchering. Rather, it is about the butcher. I invite you to befriend the folks across the counter and share the over 125 delicious recipes in the book with your own friends and families.

My grandfather and uncle, both first generation Lebanese immigrants, were WWII veterans, who then served after the war at our family grocery store and butcher shop in Valdosta, GA. Writing this book provided such a personally meaningful experience to go back in time and revisit so many of those memories, including a posthumous feature on my grandfather including my favorite recipes.

Just about everybody has a butcher in their family tree—my grandfather’s story was a portal to understanding the rich history of butchers in my local community, and can be to yours, too. A trusted butcher is vital to daily life—just like a doctor or mechanic. Striking up a friendship provides not only a connection to the community, but some delicious food to boot!”

TBF: Is this book just about meat?

MM: “No, not at all. These days, the idea of butchering has expanded its boundaries. So, in addition to plenty of meat and game, I also felt it important to shine a light on seafood and vegetables too. In fact, we feature my friend Cara Mangini, who was the first ‘vegetable butcher’ in New York’s Eataly. So, whether barbecued, grilled, raw, roasted, or fried, this book is a catch-all for any cook looking for an adventure in the kitchen.”

TBF: Many of your recipes have a southern flair with international influence – talk about how these traditions combined and created the flavor profiles? Any favorite recipes that showcase this fusion in particular?

MM: “I’m proud to have lived my entire life in the south, and I believe part of what makes up a Southern Gentleman is someone who is not only intellectually curious, but also worldly in their approach to generosity and hospitality. I’ve been fortunate to enjoy a diverse background of family, friends, and travels that help me shape the rich culture of the south—something I try to embody through sharing the mantra that there are no strangers when you are cooking and sharing food. At my house, it’s always a broad range of foods from fried chicken to tabbouleh that make up the family table.”

TBF: What kinds of advice do you most commonly give—both to home chefs just starting out, and to those with more experience?

MM: “In addition to writing books, I freelance for a slew of publications including The Art of Manliness, Life & Thyme, Southern Living, and more. I enjoy teaching others the joy and lifelong fulfillment that cooking and sharing food can bring. That said, I always preach that a meal is only as good as its ingredients—this is especially true in the world of butchering. With time and temperature, you can also get great results. A pork shoulder needs a low and slow temp, and plenty of time to yield those delicious, fall off the bone results. Alternatively, a steak cooked hot and fast allows the Maillard reaction to take over, defining that brown food is good food saying that chefs live by. At the end of the day, I emphasize simplicity, quality, and practice—nail all three and you are in for some good ‘eatin!”

TBF: What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

MM: “Think of this as a travel show, but in book form. I’m inviting you to sit right seat in the air, on the road, or get behind the counter to explore unique cultures and personalities. This is just as much a Saturday morning, cup of coffee read as it is a weeknight friendly reference for a quick meal at home. By approaching this book through the lens of the butcher, we uncover different cuts, methods, and techniques that can improve and expand your culinary repertoire. All-in-all, if you want to own just one cookbook—this is it! Butcher on the Block features an array of ingredients to satisfy any diet, while also promoting nearly every cooking method to either reinforce or expand your culinary horizon.”

Matt Moore is an entrepreneur, cook, musician, host, pilot, and the quintessential Southern gentleman living in Nashville, TN. He is the author of Serial Griller, The South’s Best Butts, A Southern Gentleman’s Kitchen, and Butcher on the Block. His food writing has garnered critical acclaim from publications including the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and New York Times. His Southern charm has landed him on the TODAY show, Fox & Friends, Tamron Hall, CBS, VH1, and WGN. You can see Moore at the 2023 Texas Book Festival this November 11–12!

Q&A With Huda Fahmy

We asked 2023 Texas Book Festival Author Huda Fahmy a few questions about herself and her featured Festival title Huda F Cares.

TBF: Why did you write your featured book? (What was your inspiration? Where did the idea start?)

HF: “I like writing stories with characters who are trying to discover who they are and are struggling to find a way to be true to themselves but also fit in. Huda F Cares was inspired by the hundreds of road trips my family and I took over the years. So many of my core memories happened on those trips. I would even go so far to say that I wouldn’t be the person I am today had it not been for those trips. There’s a saying in my faith that there are three ways to know someone’s true character: lend or borrow money from them, live with them, or travel with them. And every time I went on a trip with my family I would discover something new about myself in the way that I reacted to certain situations. I would discover what I liked about myself and what I didn’t like about myself but I would also discover that I was in control of who I wanted to be. And that’s what I wanted to explore in Huda F Cares.”

TBF: What is the last book you read, loved, and can’t stop recommending? What did you love about it?

HF: “The last book I read that I can’t help but recommend to everybody I need is called As Long As the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh. It is such a beautifully written story about love and survival with a heartbreaking twist.” 

TBF: What’s the first book you remember reading and who gave it to you? What inspired your love of reading/writing?

HF: “The first book I remember reading all on my own was James and the Giant Peach. I can’t really narrow down what inspired my love for reading but I can tell you that I was very much bullied as a kid and excluded for being different. But the characters in books didn’t care who I was and I could escape into whatever world I wanted and it felt like I belonged. Also, English wasn’t my first language and I desperately wanted to fit in so I read everything I could at a young age with the hope that I would pick up colloquialisms and figure out how to be like the other kids. Instead, I figured out how to love and accept myself even when others couldn’t or wouldn’t. It was a win-win.”

Huda Fahmy grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, and has loved comics since she was a kid. She attended the University of Michigan where she majored in English. She taught English to middle and high schoolers for eight years before she started writing about her experiences as a visibly Muslim woman in America and was encouraged by her older sister to turn these stories into comics. Huda, her husband Gehad, and their children reside in Houston, Texas. You can see Fahmy at the 2023 Texas Book Festival this November 11–12!