Published February 26, 2024

February is closing in, but if you’re like me, you celebrate Black culture, history, and literature all year round. The Black-authored books in the 2024 Festival of the Book range in genre from poetry, to fiction, to history, and to just about everything in between.

Headliner Roxane Gay is visiting Charlottesville to discuss her new book Opinions, and she’ll even answer your Work Friend question if yours is selected! If you purchase a ticket to her event before March 5, we’ll send you an email about how to submit your burning question. Either way, her talk will encapsulate a range of opinions she’s written through her years with The New York Times.

Have you seen the movie American Fiction? Featured author Percival Everett holds the pen behind this acclaimed film. Percival’s fiction is as rangy as it gets, from short stories set in gritty Western landscapes to heady satires like Erasure, which inspired the afore-mentioned film. He will be on tour with his newest book, James, a retelling of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the character Jim’s perspective.

Roxane and Percival will speak solo, as will Tiffany Clarke Harrison, author of Blue Hour, a 2023 Barack Obama Summer Reading Selection. Say what you will about politics; the man’s got great literary taste, so I’m keen to dive in.

Other panels explore the beauty and range of Blackness. Young Adult and Middle Grade authors Lauren Blackwood, Amber McBride, and Don P. Hooper sit down with other writers for panels Fantastical LoveBark and Bite, and a YA Pizza Party featuring gutsy characters who find their voices.

Poetry speaks to lineage in Family Trees and Legacies with Remica Bingham-Risher—who will also be joining the Festival for a writing workshop preview event in Charles City County—and Irène Mathieu. Black womanhood comes to life in verse in Soul in Celebration with Amy Alvarez, Cynthia Manick, and January Gill O’Neil. 

Readers with a penchant for history will enjoy Path to Grace: Reimagining the Civil Rights Movement by Ethel Morgan Smith and A Right Worthy Woman by Ruth P. Watson, who will be in panels that tell the stories of Black Women Collectives and Unsung Women. And B. Brian Foster’s essays in Ghosts of Segregation are unsettling, as any necessary truths brought to light are.  

And speaking of stories: they unfold in fiction panels The Texture of Family, with Jeffrey Blount, Donna Hemans, and Joanne Skerrett; and Ghosts and Secrets which will see Denene Millner in conversation with other novelists: and me! I am so excited about interviewing Denene and her fellow panelists. 

Crime takes the stage in Sequels & Segues with Yasmin Angoe. And the stories, poetry, art, and play excerpts in The New Brownie’s Book: A Love Letter to Black Families by Charly Palmer and Karida L. Brown place this gorgeous book in a genre all its own.

With such a long list and the Festival not far away, Black History Month is just the beginning of a year of riveting reads. 

Learning Experience

The Birth of Public Education in Four Rural Virginia Counties

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