If you hear a buzz of excitement on the Downtown Mall and around town this time of year, you know it’s almost time once again for the Virginia Festival of the Book (VFB), which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year!
The 25th annual Virginia Festival of the Book will be held Wednesday, March 20, through Sunday, March 24, 2019, in venues across Charlottesville and Albemarle County, and brings readers and writers together for a five-day program of mostly free events including author readings, book signings, panel discussions, programs for children, and more.
This year you can see: An Evening with Festival All-Stars: Lee Smith, Adriana Trigiani, and Douglas Brinkley on Wed. March 20, from 8 – 9:30 pm at the Paramount Theater in Downtown Charlottesville. Three of the Virginia Festival of the Book’s most popular recurring authors — Lee Smith (Dimestore: A Writer’s Life), Adriana Trigiani (Tony’s Wife), and Douglas Brinkley (American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race) — take the stage to share memories and swap stories, reflect on the evolution of all things literary in the past quarter-century, and discuss their own work, past, present, and future. Hosted by Margot Lee Shetterly (Hidden Figures). Tickets are $22 ($11.50 for students) on the main VA Festival website – https://www.vabook.org/.
Another notable event is Future Tense: Writers You’ll be Reading for the Next 25 Years on Sat., March 23, 8 – 9:30 pm at the Paramount Theater. As three of the most exciting young writers today, Mitchell S. Jackson (Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family), José Olivarez (Citizen Illegal), and Sarah Smarsh (Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth) share and discuss their deeply personal works of nonfiction and poetry, each representing an eye-opening look into larger social and political issues in America. Moderated by Carlos Lozada, nonfiction book critic for The Washington Post. Tickets are $22 ($11.50 for students).
Read & Lead Lunch with Barbara Ehrenreich will take place Wed. March 20, 11:45 am – 1:30 pm at the Omni Hotel Ballroom. Ehrenreich, an award-winning journalist and author of “Natural Causes” and “Nickel and Dimed”, will speak about her life and work at the annual Read & Lead Lunch. Check to the main website to make sure this event still has tickets.
All of Our Rights: America’s Legacy of Inequality will take place on Thu. March 21, from 8 – 9:30 pm also at the Paramount Theater. Carol Anderson (One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy), Michael Eric Dyson (What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America), and Martha S. Jones (Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America) discuss their award-winning works focused on American rights, racism, and resistance.
From Dyson’s examination of the Civil Rights movement to Anderson’s startling and timely look at voter suppression and Jones’ deeply-researched study of birthright citizenship, this conversation will explore the opportunities as well as the conflicts between people and policies. Moderated by Jamelle Bouie, columnist for the New York Times Opinion pages and a political analyst for CBS News. Tickets are $22 ($11.50 for students) on the Festival website.
Celebrating everything reading
Produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH), the largest of the 56 state (and territory) humanities councils, the Festival is a signature program of the Virginia Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.
The VFB is the largest community-based book event in the Mid-Atlantic region and has attracted audiences of more than 20,000 for each of the past 13 years, a great track record!
The Festival’s annual attendance reached more than 30,000 in March 2017. Attendees enjoy a captivating list of authors, ranging from international bestsellers to topical specialists to debut authors.
An abbreviated list of past participants includes Rick Atkinson, David Baldacci, Douglas Brinkley, Edwidge Danticat, Nikki Giovanni, Jan Karon, Representative John Lewis, Beth Macy, Sonia Manzano, Colum McCann, Margot Lee Shetterly, Bryan Stevenson, Joseph Stiglitz, Elizabeth Strout, Natasha Trethewey, and Lawrence Wright.
Major programs have established a reputation for offering deeply engaging discussions of important current issues. In 2013, the Festival presented “American Icons: A Conversation with the Honorable John Lewis and Dr. John Carlos,” during which contemporaries Lewis and Carlos, who came of age in the Civil Rights era and who had never before met, shared their experiences advocating for civil and human rights.
In 2016, Bryan Stevenson spoke about social justice, followed by questions from John Grisham. In 2017 Margot Lee Shetterly and Dava Sobel discussed the long unsung contributions of women in science and Joseph Stiglitz discussed economic inequality with Frank Sesno.
Plenty to choose from
The Festival offers about 250 programs, most of them free, and provides book discussions in every genre and for every level of reader. In 2018 the Festival also scheduled 100 author visits into local K-12 classrooms, providing programs for more than 10,000 students.
All programs are open to the public and, with the exception of a few ticketed events, the majority of Festival programs are free to attend.
The Festival is presented through a unique partnership of contributors that includes VFH, foundations, corporations, bookstores, schools, libraries, area businesses and organizations, and committed individuals. This partnership results in programs on a wide range of topics taking place at a variety of venues throughout the city, county and at UVA.
Signature annual event
The VFB has become an integral part of the community. It was formally recognized as such when it was named a Signature Event by the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In support of the staff, almost every aspect of the Festival is organized and generated by Festival Committees of community volunteers who generously contribute their time and energy.
Future Festival Dates
The 26th annual Virginia Festival of the Book
March 18-22, 2020
The 27th annual Virginia Festival of the Book
March 17-21, 2021
The 28th annual Virginia Festival of the Book
March 16-20, 2022