Faculty and Alumni to Play a Prominent Role in the 28th Virginia Festival of the Book

After moving to an all-virtual format last year, the Virginia Festival of the Book, a signature program of Virginia Humanities and the Virginia Center for the Book, returns this year to celebrate books, reading, literacy and literary culture with a five-day program of both in-person and virtual events beginning Wednesday.

As in previous years, University of Virginia faculty, staff and alumni are featured prominently in the festival’s program as both authors and moderators. A chronological list of most of the participants, especially from the College of Arts & Sciences, is included below.

All events are open to the public and free of charge. To learn more about festival programming, visit vabook.org. Registration for virtual events is on the specific web pages. For in-person events, some venues have limited capacities. Early arrival is encouraged, and some venues have specific requirements due to the pandemic.


  • The Inner Work of Racial Justice: A Conversation With Rhonda V. Magee (2-3 p.m., virtual)

Rhonda V. Magee, author of “The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness,” discusses her work exploring the intersections of anti-racist education, social justice and contemplative practices. Now on the law faculty at the University of San Francisco, Magee earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology from the University, as well as her law degree.

  • Voices of the Civil War Era (2-3 p.m., UVA Bookstore)

Historians Caroline Janney, UVA’s John L. Nau III Professor in the History of American Civil War and author of “Ends of War”; Andrew Lang, author of “A Contest of Civilizations”; and Jonathan White, author of “To Address You as My Friend,” discuss their work with moderator Brian C. Neumann, managing director and digital historian of UVA’s John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History who earned his history Ph.D. in 2020 at UVA. Janney directs the Nau Center. The panelists share their research and writing about the experiences, foundational ideas and letters of the Civil War era.

  • Lives of the Unfree: Activism and Survival (4-5 p.m., UVA Bookstore)

Justene Hill Edwards, assistant professor of history and author of “Unfree Markets: The Slaves Economy and the Rise of Capitalism in South Carolina,” and Vanessa M. Holden, author of “Surviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community,” share their new histories offering a fuller picture of the interactions and social relationships of enslaved people as they sought opportunities to survive. Laurent Dubois, director for academic affairs at the Democracy Initiative at UVA, joins them in conversation.

  • Rooted in the Personal: Poetry by Forrest Gander and Lisa Russ Spaar (7-8 p.m., Central Jefferson Madison Regional Library)

Poets Forrest Gander, author of “Twice Alive,” and Lisa Russ Spaar, professor of English in UVA’s Creative Writing Program, whose latest book is “Madrigalia: New & Selected Poems,” read from their most recent collections, explorations of both personal and environmental connections. Gander, who grew up in Virginia, won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for his book “Be With.” Spaar is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and Rona Jaffe Award, among numerous other honors.


  • The Critical Role of Local Journalism (10-11 a.m., virtual)

Authors and media specialists Christopher Ali, associate professor of media studies and author of “Farm Fresh Broadband,” and Jennifer Lawless, author of “News Hole” and the Leone Reeves and George Spicer Professor of Politics at UVA, where she serves as department chair, discuss the many challenges to open access to local news, including struggling newspapers, limited coverage of local government and a widening divide between rural and urban broadband access.

  • ‘The Wrong End of the Telescope’ with Rabih Alameddine (Noon-1 p.m., UVA Bookstore)

In conversation with Allison Wright, executive editor and publisher of the Virginia Quarterly Review, who also teaches journalism at UVA, Rabih Alameddine, Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence in the Creative Writing Program and author of “The Wrong End of the Telescope,” discusses his latest novel about an Arab American trans woman’s journey among Syrian refugees on Lesbos island.

  • The Emotional Pull of Home (2-3 p.m., Central Jefferson Madison Regional Library)

Authors Joanna Eleftheriou, author of “This Way Back”; Henry Hoke, author of “Sticker”; and Jennifer Niesslein, who graduated from UVA in 1994 and most recently published “Dreadful Sorry: Essays on an American Nostalgia,” share their place-centered essays and memoirs, addressing questions of class, history, family, gender and home.

Niesslein, founder and editor of Full Grown People (The Other Awkward Age), a web magazine of essays, also co-founded the magazine, Brain, Child, that catered to the intellectual life of mothers. She and alumna Stephanie Wilkinson co-edited the journal for 13 years.

  • Eyewitness to the Past (2-3 p.m., Jefferson School African American Heritage Center)

Leah Esslinger, who has a master’s degree in anthropological linguistics from UVA, moderates this panel of writers. Anneliese Bruner, great-granddaughter to the author of “The Nation Must Awake”; Gayle Jessup White, whose book “Reclamation” explores her family ties to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings; and Steve Majors, who wrote “High Yella,” share their histories and life stories, offering a close look at Black families and their legacies as seen through multiple lenses over time.

White’s genealogical search led to a job at Monticello, where she is the public relations and community engagement officer, making her the first descendant of the enslaved and the enslaver to be employed by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Esslinger is a freelance writer and researcher in the Charlottesville area who is currently the communications assistant at Virginia Humanities.

  • Who Owns Your DNA? (6-7 p.m., virtual)

Genetics legal authority Jorge Contreras shares the behind-the-scenes strategies and battles that played out over years in the groundbreaking civil rights case, AMP v. Myriad, a fight over private corporate ownership of human gene patents, which he wrote about in “The Genome Defense: Inside the Epic Legal Battle to Determine Who Owns Your DNA.” He discusses this fascinating history about the balance between scientific discovery, corporate profits and the rights of all people with UVA’s Cathy Hwang, the Barron F. Black Research Professor of Law.

  • The Human Cost of One-Click Orders (7-7:45 p.m., virtual)

Nelson Camilo Sánchez, director of UVA’s International Human Rights Law Clinic, moderates the discussion with award-winning journalists Alec MacGillis, author of “Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America,” and Amelia Pang, author of “Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America’s Cheap Goods.” They explore the hidden costs of our globalized, internet-driven consumer economy, discussing forced labor camp enslavement in China, as well as the ubiquity and dominance of Amazon.com.


  • Fresh Portraits of Indomitable Women (10-11 a.m., UVA Bookstore)

Hilary Holladay, who graduated from UVA in 1983 and published “The Power of Adrienne Rich: A Biography,” and Andrew Kaufman, UVA associate professor and author of “The Gambler Wife: A True Story of Love, Risk, and the Woman Who Saved Dostoyevsky,” investigate the true lives of writers finding a balance between a fierce commitment to their craft and the pulls of life outside of it.

PEN America named “The Gambler Wife” one of five finalists for the 2022 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography, for a “biography of exceptional literary, narrative and artistic merit, based on scrupulous research.” Kaufman, a member of the Slavic languages and literatures department at UVA, is the creator of “Books Behind Bars,” a program and course introducing incarcerated youth to the writings of Dostoyevsky and other authors.

  • Sowing Care and Justice (Noon-1 p.m., virtual)

Co-editors Mai-Linh Hong and Chrissy Yee Lau, and contributor Valerie Soe, discuss “The Auntie Sewing Squad Guide to Mask Making, Radical Care, and Racial Justice” and the work of the Auntie Sewing Squad, a massive mutual-aid network of volunteers who created and distributed free masks to the most vulnerable and neglected communities across the country. This collection of essays and ephemera documents their work.

Hong, an assistant professor of Asian diaspora and Asian American literature at the University of California, Merced, earned her J.D. and Ph.D. in English at UVA.

  • UVA Creative Writing Alumni Reading (Noon-1 p.m., UVA Bookstore)

Graduates of UVA’s Creative Writing Program Anna Caritj, who earned a B.A. in 2012 and is author of  “Leda and the Swan”; David Francis, who earned a B.A. in 2004 and translated “Footwork: Selected Poems” by Severo Sarduy; and Aimee Seu, who earned an M.F.A. in 2020 and has published “Velvet Hounds,” read from and discuss their writing in conversation with Jeb Livingood, associate director of UVA’s Creative Writing Program.

  • Life-Threatening Unknowns and Inequities in American Health Care (2-3 p.m., Jefferson School African American Heritage Center)

Taylor Harris, author of “This Boy We Made”; Anushay Hossain, who graduated in 2002 and is author of “The Pain Gap”; and N. West Moss, author of “Flesh and Blood,” share their individual stories and keen insights into the American health care system. Going beyond a retelling of their experiences, these authors explore the assumptions, expectations and fears revealed by modern medicine.

  • ‘My Monticello’ with Jocelyn Nicole Johnson (4-5 p.m., Jefferson School African American Heritage Center)

In conversation with Lisa Woolfork, an associate professor of English at UVA, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson, author of “My Monticello,” discusses her debut book, a collection of short stories including the eponymous novella, exploring burdened inheritances and extraordinary pursuits of belonging.

  • Speaking Through History: Poetry of Persona (4-5 p.m., virtual)

Poets Annie Kim, a 1996 UVA graduate, Law School assistant dean for public service and author of “Eros, Unbroken,” and Shara McCallum, author of “No Ruined Stone,” call on historical personas in their most recent books. They speak through and speak to these figures, engaging their perspectives to better understand a modern predicament.

  • Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia Presents: Talks by UVA Graduate Students (4-5 p.m., UVA Harrison Institute/ Small Special Collections)

Bibliographical Society President John T. Casteen III introduces the event and the three graduate students for a conversation about their research: Louis Mainwaring Foster on “Thucydides and the Establishment of Greek Identity”; John Shimazaki on “The Absence of Phillis Wheatley’s Portrait in American Editions of Her Poems”; and Samantha Stephens on “The Digital Typography of Kamau Brathwaite.”


  • Enduring Legacies of American Colonialism (10-11 a.m., Irving Theater, CODE Building)

UVA alumnus Jamelle Bouie moderates this discussion with authors Jonathan M. Katz (“Gangsters of Capitalism”) and Albert Samaha (“Concepcion”), who question and explore the enduring legacies of war, conquest and imperialism through the lens of real individual lives.

Bouie, who graduated from UVA with degrees in government, and in political and social thought in 2009, is a columnist for The New York Times and political analyst for CBS News.

  • Family, Friends & First Love: Young Adult Fiction (Noon-1 p.m., Central Jefferson Madison Regional Library)

Amber McBride, a lecturer who teaches writing in the Department of English and is author of “Me (Moth)”; M.K. England, author of “The One True Me and You”; and Halli Gomez, author of “List of Ten,” discuss their young adult novels, highlighting how friends, family and first love help support their protagonists in facing challenges, healing from traumas and embracing their true selves.

  • Shadows of Grief (Noon-1 p.m., Jefferson School African American Heritage Center)

Speaking with Shilpa Davé, a UVA assistant professor of media studies, Victoria Chang, author of “Dear Memory,” and Kat Chow, author of “Seeing Ghosts,” share deep, personal sorrow in their recent memoirs, haunting portraits of grief, remembrance and meaning. Their books offer close examinations of the losses that shaped them, preserved histories that help illuminate generational connections and the emotional significance of memory.

  • UVA Creative Writing Alumni Reading (Noon-12:45 p.m., virtual)

Jeb Livingood, associate director of UVA’s Creative Writing Program, joins M.F.A. graduates Anna Beecher (2020), who published “Here Comes the Miracle,” and Emily Temple (2016), who published “The Lightness,” as they read from and discuss their first novels.

  • Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace: A Conversation with Michael Krepon (2-3 p.m., Irving Theater, CODE Building)

In conversation with Todd Sechser, UVA professor of politics and public policy and a Miller Center senior fellow, foreign affairs and policy specialist Michael Krepon, author of “Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace,” discusses his definitive guide to the history of nuclear arms control, including how the practice was built from scratch, how it was torn down and how it can be rebuilt.

  • Portraits of Racial Justice: A Conversation with Robert Shetterly (2-3 p.m., Jefferson School African American Heritage Center)

Shetterly, author of “Portraits of Racial Justice: Americans Who Tell the Truth,” discusses his comprehensive, multimedia collection of portraits addressing America’s history of social, environmental and economic injustices in conversation with Andrea Douglas, executive director of the Jefferson School, who holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in art history from UVA.

  • NBF Presents: An Afternoon With the National Book Awards (4-5 p.m., Jefferson School African American Heritage Center)

The National Book Foundation features its 2021 National Book Award-honored authors: Amber McBride, a member of the UVA English department faculty and author of “Me (Moth),” a finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature; Robert Jones Jr., author of “The Prophets,” a finalist in fiction; and Jason Mott, author of “Hell of a Book,” that won in the fiction category.


  • The Illimitable Freedom of the Human Mind: A Conversation with Andrew O’Shaughnessy (11 a.m.-noon, Monticello’s David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center and livestreamed)

O’Shaughnessy, a UVA history professor, is Saunders Director of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies and vice president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello. His most recent book serves as a twin biography of Jefferson in retirement and of the University of Virginia in its earliest years.

  • ‘In the Arena’ In Conversation With Chuck Robb (1-2 p.m., James Monroe’s Highland)

Former Virginia Gov. and U.S. Sen. Chuck Robb, a 1973 Law School alumnus, shares his life experiences, described in his 2021 memoir, “In The Arena,” published by UVA Press. From entering the national stage in 1967 through distinguished military service, followed by representing Virginia as elected official, Robb’s is a story that encompasses family, civic service and leadership.

Robb talks with another illustrious UVA alumnus, Judge John Charles Thomas, who earned his B.A. in American government in 1972 and his UVA Law degree in 1975. A former justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Thomas was the first Black man named to that court.

  • Poetry for Today: Readings by Victoria Chang and Rita Dove (3-4 p.m., Jefferson School African American Heritage Center)

In partnership with the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, poets Victoria Chang, who recently published a poetry collection, “Obit”; and Rita Dove, Henry Hoyns Professor of Creative Writing” whose most recent volume is “Playlist for the Apocalypse,” read from and discuss their recent collections. Chang received the 2021 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for “Obit,” and Dove is a long-time juror for the awards, which present the only juried American book prize focusing on works that address racism and diversity.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *