by MIRIAM MEEKS
There will be a single Southern festival where book lovers will find more than 10,000 readers, 200 authors, and a dozen booksellers gathered on a capitol lawn.
The Mississippi Book Festival returns August 20. The Magnolia State’s literary lawn party has been a state staple since its inception in 2015. Past panelists include nationally recognized Mississippi authors Richard Ford, Angie Thomas, Jesmyn Ward, John Grisham, and more. This year marks the event’s eighth occurrence, and for the first time since the global pandemic, the festival will welcome the community back in person.
In August, community members and visitors alike are invited to choose from over 40 panels with headliners such as Jennifer Egan, Alice Walker, Jericho Brown, and Candice Millard. Jennifer Egan, who won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and many other honors, will speak on her latest novel, The Candy House, courtesy of the Eudora Welty Foundation. Her fellow Pulitzer Prize winner, Alice Walker, will celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Color Purple in conversation with Jackson native and Carnegie Medalist Kiese Laymon.
The event, which is free and open to the public, includes people of all ages with various interests. Lifestyle panels will cover bookmaking, music, cooking, and current events, and the Civil Rights Movement and World War II are two of the many historical topics explored by participating writers. Southern culture and fiction will also be central to the discussion, but the conversation won’t end there. Debut novelists, humor writers, and photographers will make audiences laugh and cry in equal measure.
The book festival will welcome the entire family with a select number of free books and an outdoor children’s tent devoted to crafts and storytelling. To cool off, families will be able to step inside the State Capitol for kid-friendly activities and panels on picture books, Middle Grade fiction, and Young Adult novels.
Newbery Medalist Matt de la Peña will be among those in Jackson for the festivities. At the KidNote, the festival’s keynote for kids, he will discuss his newest book Milo Imagines the World. Due to the global pandemic, last year’s events took place virtually. “It was a great way to keep the community connected through panels and talks with authors,” Executive Director Ellen Daniels says, “and the KidNote event with Nic Stone saw over nine thousand school children listening online.” This year’s KidNote is projected to reach even more young people with not one but two events, the second featuring graphic novelist Andrew Aydin and comic illustrator Nate Powell.
Attendees should come prepared for a full day of fun. In addition to interacting with authors and booksellers, festival goers can tour the Old Capitol, buy food from local vendors, listen to live music, and watch the making of live art. At the heart of it all rests a love for literature. “Books have had an important role in all our lives, and they’ve been even more important during this pandemic, but there’s something about having people together in-person to talk about literature,” Daniels says. “We can’t wait to have everyone back for the literary lawn party. We’ve missed y’all.”
The Mississippi Book Festival is on August 20, 2022, on the State Capitol grounds in Jackson, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more info: https://msbookfestival.com/