The time of year has come—drawn from their reading nooks across the Deep South—when book lovers can unite to enjoy all things literature. This year, the Louisiana Book Festival will present more than 80 writers, poets, scholars and panelists virtually over three weekends for free. Programming will include author readings and book talks, interviews and panel discussions. Because of the pandemic, the festival will be held virtually with events streaming live on the Louisiana Book Festival Facebook page and then archived later on the Festival’s YouTube page.
The Louisiana Book Festival kicks off on October 30 for the weekend and continues for the following two weekends, ending on November 14. A full schedule can be found here.
“The Louisiana Book Festival celebrates writers and readers, making Baton Rouge the center of Louisiana’s literary universe for a splendid fall weekend.”
-Susan Larson, author and host, The Reading Life
Lit lovers won’t have to travel to Baton Rouge this year and can enjoy festival programming from the comfort of their own homes. The first event on October 30 will be spent with the Louisiana Writer Award recipient of 2021 Fatima Shaik. Shaik is a born writer working with multiple forms and mediums. She’s written for magazines and newspapers and created fiction for children, young adults and mature audiences as well. Deeply knowledgeable of Louisiana culture and history, Shaik has spent her life uncovering the hidden worlds life in the bayou state has to offer. The following day, she will also converse with Susan Larson, former book editor of The New Orleans Times-Picayune and author of The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans.
Other notable events include a conversation on October 30 between two Louisiana poet laureates: Mona Lisa Saloy the current laureate and author of Red Beans and Ricely Yours; and her predecessor John Warner Smith, author of A Mandala of Hands. Deep South Editor Erin Z. Bass moderates “From the Jasmine Fields of France to the Bayous of Louisiana: When Place Informs Plot” with authors David Armand, Pamela Binnings Ewen and Anne Simon, streaming on November 7.
The selection for the One Book, One Festival book club this year was A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines. For those who don’t know, each year a book is decided upon that everyone reads together to discuss at the festival. Gaines has long been a pillar of the Louisiana writing community with such classics as The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and the Pulitzer Prize-nominated A Lesson Before Dying. If you haven’t read A Gather of Old Men yet, don’t worry; it’s not a long read, so there’s still time to get caught up so you can follow along with the discussion with Gary Richards on November 5.
“I was born and raised in Louisiana, but have lived all over the United States, and traveled widely internationally. No other book festival I’m aware of in the U.S. even comes close to the energy, quality and sheer volume of writers and community reach as the Louisiana Book Festival.”
–Sheryl St. Germain, recipient of the 2018 Louisiana Writer Award
Events more suitable for kids include Gayle Webre’s reading of his book When I was an Alligator and Denise Gallagher’s reading of her book Moonsong. Julie Fontenot Landry has carried the torch of her mother’s acclaimed children’s series “Clovis Crawfish” in her new book Clovis Crawfish and the Feu Follet. She’ll be celebrating 60 years of Clovis and presenting her new book on November 7.
If you’re looking for some fun events that adults can enjoy, there’s Stephen J. C. Andes and Rodneyna M. O. Hart’s talk From Zorro to Speedy Gonzales and Beyond!, a discussion of Mexican-American pop culture icons. There’s a presentation of Chapel of Love: The Story of New Orleans Girl-Group the Dixie Cups by Steve Bergsman with Courtney McCreary. Also, don’t miss the conversation happening over Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles of an American Troubadour by Grammy-winning artist Ricky Lee Jones on November 5. If none of these appeals to you, there’s plenty of events covering everything from food to photography, sports, music, murder mysteries and so much more.
The Louisiana Book Festival is a longtime staple of the community, and its endurance even in the face of difficult circumstances proves how much a love of literature runs deep in the lives of the people of Louisiana.
“In the American experience, our books are the one things as multifaceted and truly diverse as the American people themselves… This gathering is a showcase of the best Louisiana has to offer.”
-John Gery, Poet and research professor at the University of New Orleans
Full disclosure: Deep South Magazine is a media sponsor of the Louisiana Book Festival.