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Southern Festival of Books

October 15, 2023

The Festival is a little different this time around—instead of taking place at Nashville Public Library and War Memorial Plaza, the grounds this year include Bicentennial Mall State Park, the Tennessee State Museum, and the Tennessee State Library and Archives.  The festival is October 21-22 and is free and open to the public.  

I’m most excited about these three Saturday sessions:

Magical Realism and the Black Experience: Kelsey Norris and Janelle M. Williams

Saturday, 12:00 p.m.
Tennessee State Museum: Wolf Room

Booklist calls Kelsey Norris’ story collection House Gone Quiet “perfect for readers of Margaret Atwood and Carmen Maria Machado.”  Janelle M. Williams’ Gone Like Yesterday was published by Tiny Reparations Books and was a Good Morning America buzz pick.

Historical Fiction: Tan Twan Eng, Jamila Minnicks, Julia Watts

Saturday, 1:00 p.m.
Tennessee State Library: Nolichucky Room

I am a huge Somerset Maugham fan, and Tan Twan Eng’s House of Doors is a fictionalized account of a trip Maugham took to Malaysia after World War I. It was also on the Booker longlist this year. Jamila Minnicks’ Moonrise Over New Jessup won the 2021 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, was shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and is set in 1950’s Alabama. Julia Watts is known for her portrayals of LGBTQ lives in Appalachia, and Lovesick Blossoms portrays two married women in 1950’s Kentucky who fall in love.  

Modern Work: Sarah Rose Etter and Ben Purkert

Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Tennessee State Library: Nolichucky Room

Sarah Rose Etter’s Ripe and Ben Purkert’s The Men Can’t Be Saved both examine what Kirkus Reviews calls, “the black hole at the center of capitalism,” Etter with magical realism (a miniature black hole follows her around) and Purkert with satire.

This year also boasts some highly anticipated Nashville-centric sessions:

Ann Patchett & Lindsay Lynch 

Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
Cumberland Tent

Margaret Renkl

Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Cumberland Tent

Welcome to Capitol Hill

Saturday, 3:00 p.m.
Tennessee State Library: Obion Room

Prine on Prine

Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
Tennessee State Library: Obion Room

Music: Paula Blackman, Drew Bratcher, Tim Ghianni

Sunday, 10:30 a.m.
Tennessee State Library: Harpeth Room

beth winter


Beth works in the Collection Development department.  She loves short stories, memoirs, documentary films, and cookbooks.  Her favorite things about working at the library are knowing in advance about all the new releases and the easy access to her library holds.

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