Kulow gives highlights of 2022 book festival

By Page H. Gifford

Jane Kulow, director of the Virginia Center for the Book for the Virginia Humanities, spoke on March 2 with members of Friends of the Library about the fast-approaching   annual Festival of the Book in Charlottesville. The festival will take place between March 16-20 with a series of pre-festival virtual events presented for specific audiences.

For those interested in writing and publishing, Virginia Writing & Publishing programs are a pre-festival offering, beginning March 9, featuring virtual events presented in partnership with Virginia literary and writing organizations. The series offers workshop-type events for every writing level and all of these events are free. Virtual classroom visits and a series of Virginia writing and publishing events are taking place in these two weeks leading up to the festival. Those can be viewed at VaBook.org/watch.

Due to COVID, many festivals and annual events had been canceled in the last two years. Kulow explained what will take place this year regarding COVID.

“Public safety is one of our top concerns for this, our first hybrid festival. We encourage everyone to see our COVID-19 policies, published at VaBook.org/policies,” she said. “In addition, because the precautions we can provide are different in a variety of venues, we have published venue-specific details on individual events and venue pages.”

Among the headliners this year is youth headliner Traci Chee. Traci Chee, author of “A Thousand Steps into Night,” discusses her new young adult Japanese-influenced fantasy novel, rich with demons, adventure, thwarted plans, twists and turns. Chee will also be talking about her non-fiction work “We are Not Free,” with local children’s author, Amy Lee-Tai.  A heralded novel for young adults, it talks about a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II.

Among the headliners are Ralph Eubanks, author of  “A Place Like Mississippi,” Jocelyn Nicole Johnson “My Monticello,” and Imani Perry “South to America.”

“They will take center stage at this festival headliner event to discuss the storied fact and fiction of the American South,” she said. “The famed storytellers of Mississippi, short stories of the near future in central Virginia, and a historian’s travelogue of the southern states together provide a multigenre exploration of the region and what it means to belong to this place.”

Other headliners include the 2021 National Book Award–honored authors and poetry readings by Victoria Chang and Rita Dove, who will talk about their recent collections of work. 

On a personal level, regarding the individual and society,  she recommended a few topics under Making Sense of Our World. Included are “The Inner Work of Racial Justice: A Conversation with Rhonda Magee.” Magee, a mindfulness teacher and law professor, discusses her work “The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness.”

  “Her work explores the intersections of anti-racist education, social justice, and contemplative practices. A highly practiced facilitator of mindfulness-based stress reduction, Magee draws on law and legal history to weave storytelling, poetry, analysis, and practices into how we think, act, and live better together in a rapidly changing world,” said Kulow.

She added that “Exploring Family Bonds,” with authors Jan Beatty, Taylor Harris, and Julietta Singh offers lyrical explorations into how we build families, links between identity and blood history, and parenting through unknown futures. Also, she suggested “Making Sense of the World, Making Sense of Ourselves: Graphic Memoirs,” with Courtney Cook and Laura Gao; looks into how growing up and living life is hard enough, let alone with the added spotlight of a pandemic or the effects of borderline personality disorder.

“These graphic memoirs are at once incredibly unique and universally accessible in their examination of how individuals make sense of the world and themselves.”

Some events could only be done virtually. Most of them spotlight current issues including climate change, and environmental concerns such as  “Seeing Trees, Saving the Great Forests.” The discussion centers on the environment and the impact on forests with forest scientists and  preservationists Meg Lowman and John W. Reid.

“They will share their work and experience traveling and studying the great forests of the world, including the immediate practical steps that can be taken to preserve the major forests and make a lasting impact against climate change.”

Another program of interest is rural access to broadband and local journalism in “The Critical Role of Local Journalism.”

“Authors and media specialists Christopher Ali and Jennifer Lawless share their work and discuss the many challenges to open access to local news, including struggling newspapers, limited coverage of local government, and a widening divide between rural and urban broadband access.”

“Who Owns Your DNA?” highlights the legalities and concerns people have regarding private corporate ownership of human gene patents. This program explores the balance between scientific discovery, corporate profits, and the rights of all people.

There is a myriad of other genres and stories as diverse as the authors who will discuss their work from fiction to non-fiction, from the  always popular “Crime Wave” featuring the latest mystery writers sharing their delectably macabre plots and characters. There is something for anyone who is in love with books and reading. For more information visit vabook.org.

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