Mar 20, 2018
Virginia Festival of the Book, Virginia Humanities

As book lovers pore over the schedule of the Virginia Festival of the Book, to be held Wednesday through Sunday, they have a variety of authors to choose from, including many University of Virginia scholars and writers.

Although all the tickets have been reserved for a Saturday event with UVA President-elect James E. Ryan, people on the waiting list can check in at the Paramount Theater at 3:45 p.m. to see if there are any unclaimed tickets.

From abolitionists to astronauts, from Southern cooking enthusiasts to social justice advocates, almost two dozen professors and UVA staff members and more than a dozen alumni will give readings and participate in panel discussions. Another 40 members of the UVA community will moderate panels.

In addition to Ryan’s talk, information describing several other events can be found here. The full schedule can be viewed on the book festival website.

Many UVA-affiliated speakers have inspiring stories to share from their research and their wealth of experience. Other events might inspire participants to action.

Alumni Leland Melvin and Tony Covington have published memoirs to inspire others in overcoming setbacks to find success and new meaning in life.

Historians, including William Hitchcock, S. Max Edelson and Andrew Kahrl, Law School professor Brandon Garrett, and English professors such as Susan Fraiman and Michael Suarez will share inspiring stories and insights about society and past events that help put some of today’s issues in context.

English professors Mark Edmundson and Gregory Orr will read from and talk about their essays and poetry, offering advice to inspire others interested in putting pen to paper.

Here is a sampling of UVA-related events.

‘Chasing Space’

Melvin, who earned his master’s degree in materials science engineering, will talk about his memoir, “Chasing Space,” and how perseverance enabled him to pursue a career as a National Football League wide receiver and ultimately become a NASA astronaut. He kicks off the festival with one of the first events on Wednesday.

The lunch is one of the few events that require paying for a ticket. Melvin also will talk with area schoolchildren at free assemblies. Click here for details.

• Read & Lead lunch
Wednesday, 11:45 a.m., Omni Hotel Ballroom.


Covington, a former UVA football player who graduated in 1991, will join fellow authors Kathleen Saville and Tim Wendel in talking about their recent memoirs. In “I Am Underdog: A Journey of Adversity & Blessings,” Covington talks about how he learned to believe in himself even when others weren’t so sure. Covington played in the NFL for five years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks.

When it came time to change careers, he did some high school coaching but eventually transitioned to nonprofit fundraising and worked with the American Heart Association, Special Olympics and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. He’s now senior director of corporate affairs at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Covington also serves as a color analyst of UVA football with the Cavalier Radio Network.

• Challenging Journeys: Memoirs
Thursday, 4 p.m., UVA Bookstore

Words Coming Alive

English professors Edmundson and Orr, along with writer Maud Casey, who recently published “The Art of Mystery,” will discuss their new books, sure to inspire those interested in writing in a range of genres. English professor Bruce Holsinger, who has published two historical novels, will moderate the conversation.

Edmundson’s latest, “The Heart of the Humanities,” brings together three of his other works, “Why Write?”, “Why Teach?” and “Why Read?” A fierce defender of philosophy and literature, he has published numerous articles and 13 books, from scholarly works such as “The Death of Sigmund Freud” to popular culture in “Why Football Matters: My Education in the Game.”

Edmundson is giving a workshop at WriterHouse on “How to Get Started as a Writer,” Thursday at 4 p.m. at the central Jefferson-Madison Regional Library.

Orr, who founded the Creative Writing Program at UVA and has taught here for more than 40 years, has published more than a dozen books of poetry, three books about poetry and a memoir. His latest, “A Primer for Poets & Readers of Poetry,” provides an innovative and accessible guide to writing poems for beginners and experienced writers.

• Words Coming Alive: On Reading and Writing
Thursday, 10 a.m., UVA Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections auditorium

Criminal Injustice

Brandon Garrett, who has taught at the UVA School of Law since 2005, researches the criminal justice system, ranging from cases where falsely convicted people were exonerated by DNA tests to false confessions, forensics and eyewitness memory, to the difficult compromises that prosecutors reach when targeting the largest corporations in the world.

He covered those topics in previous books, including  “Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong” and “Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations.” His new book, “End of Its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice,” examines the implications of the decline of the death penalty.

Garrett will be joined by three other authors discussing their books about miscarriages of justice, with John Grisham moderating the panel. Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington wrote “The Cadaver King and The Country Dentist,” and Bill Sizemore, who with Jens Soering, published “A Far, Far Better Thing: Did a Fatal Attraction Lead to a Wrongful Conviction?”

• Criminal Injustice: Bias, Incompetence & Excess
Thursday, 4 p.m., Jefferson School African American Heritage Center

Presidents and War

History professor William Hitchcock will talk about his latest book, “The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s,” about the accomplishments of the famously staid president. His previous book, “The Bitter Road to Freedom: The Human Cost of Allied Victory in World War II Europe,” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

At the same event, UVA alumnus John Farrell will speak on his latest political biography, “Richard Nixon: The Life.” A prize-winning journalist, he has worked at The Denver Post, National Journal and The Boston Globe, where he was White House correspondent.

A third panelist, Sharon Weinberger of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, is author of “The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World.”

• American Studies: Dick, Ike & DARPA
Friday, 2 p.m., City Council Chambers

Activist History

Andrew Kahrl, associate professor of history and African-American studies, tells the story of controversial protester Ned Coll in “Free the Beaches.” During the long, hot summers of the late 1960s and ’70s, Coll gathered a band of determined African-American mothers and children and challenged the racist, exclusionary tactics of homeowners on the Connecticut shoreline.

Kahrl’s first book, “The Land Was Ours,” received the Liberty Legacy Foundation Award from the Organization of American Historians.

Other participants will be Wayne Wiegand, author of “The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South: Civil Rights and Local Activism”; Robert Williams, a UVA Law School alumnus who protested at the Danville Public Library in 1960; and moderator Justin Reid, director of African-American programs at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

• Civic Activism: 1960s Protests for Equal Access
Saturday, 10 a.m., Jefferson School African American Heritage Center

Contemporary Politics

Nicole Hemmer, author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics,” and two others, Jason Altmire, author of  “Dead Center,” and Caitriona Perry, author of “In America: Tales From Trump Country,” will discuss the deep polarization in U.S. politics, American media and the country.

• American Politics: Left, Right and Center
Saturday, noon, City Council Chambers

The U.S. Civil War

Professor of law and history Cynthia Nicoletti, author of “Secession on Trial: The Treason Prosecution of Jefferson Davis,” will talk about the legal implications in resolving the legal status of the Confederacy. Former University of Richmond President Edward L. Ayers, also a former UVA professor and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, will discuss his latest, “The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America,” and Barbara Gannon will talk about her book, “Americans Remember Their Civil War.”

• The Civil War: Reconstruction, Treason & Memory
Friday, 2 p.m., UVA Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections auditorium

Abolition in Print

Michael Suarez, University Professor and director of the Rare Book School, has written widely on various aspects of 18th-century English literature, bibliography and book history. Author of “The Oxford Companion to the Book,” among other volumes, Suarez will discuss how a targeted publishing program enlightened the the British public to the horrors of the slave trade, leading to its abolition in 1808.

• Printing Abolition: How the Fight to Abolish the Slave Trade in Britain Was Won
Thursday, 4 p.m., UVA Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections auditorium

More Fiction and Poetry

Thomas Pierce, an M.F.A. graduate who’s currently a visiting assistant professor, will read from his debut novel, “The Afterlives,” with author Jamie Quatro, who recently published “Fire Sermon.”

Pierce, whose first short story collection, “Hall of Small Mammals,” came out in 2015, was selected for the National Book Foundation’s annual “5 Under 35” prize in 2016, recognizing five young writers whose work stands out from other new books and lists of recommended titles.

• Fiercely Original Fiction: Marriages
Thursday, 2 p.m., Central Jefferson-Madison Regional Library

Creative Writing Alumni

A quartet of alumni of the Creative Writing Program in UVA’s English department will read from their recently published books.

Adam Giannelli, winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize and translator of Marosa di Giorgio’s “Diadem,” recently published the poetry volume, “Tremulous Hinge.”

Brittany Perham, whose latest poetry collection is “Double Portrait,” is a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University. Her other books include “The Curiosities” and, with Kim Addonizio, “The Night Could Go in Either Direction.”

Brian Sneeden will also read poems, including from his recent book, “Last City.” He is a poet, translator and essayist. He served as poetry editor of Meridian, the UVA Creative Writing Program’s semiannual literary magazine, and is senior editor of New Poetry in Translation.

Brendan Mathews, who teaches at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, will give two readings. His debut novel, “The World of Tomorrow,” was named an Editors’ Choice by the New York Times Book Review. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Ireland and has published stories in Virginia Quarterly Review, Salon and Glimmer Train.

• UVA Creative Writing Alumni Reading
Friday, noon, UVA Bookstore

• Epic & Audacious Fiction, with Mathews, plus novelists Elizabeth Kostova and Martin Seay
Saturday, 10 a.m., Central Jefferson-Madison Regional Library

Southern Cooking

Two UVA professors will join Michael Twitty, author of “The Cooking Gene,” which documents the author’s “mission to document the connection between food history and family history from Africa to America, from slavery to freedom.” With Twitty (who has several events scheduled) will be Gertrude Fraser, associate professor of anthropology, and Lisa Shutt, assistant professor of African-American and African Studies, who will discuss race, power, cultural appropriation and cultural diffusion in the world of Southern food writing and culinary politics.

• “The Cooking Gene”
Friday, 2 p.m., UVA Bookstore

Sarah Lawson
Assistant Director
Virginia Center for the Book
Original Publication: UVA Today