By Kate Whitman, Vice President of Author Programs and Community Engagement
Atlanta is a literary town. We have great independent bookstores, two of the best book festivals in the country—the Decatur Book Festival and the Book Festival of the MJCCA—and almost any day of the week you can find an author talk, book discussion, poetry slam, or other literary happening across the metro area.
I think one of the main reasons the literary community thrives here is that so many wonderful authors call Atlanta home. These Atlanta-based authors give back to their community in big ways by promoting their favorite indie bookstores, teaching in the writing programs at local colleges and universities, volunteering their time and talent to nonprofit organizations, and supporting each other by being cheerleaders, fans, and unofficial (and unpaid) marketing teams for each other’s books and events. It is great to see the support writers have for each other, perhaps because the labor of bringing a book into the world is an experience only other authors understand—one filled with equal parts anxiety and elation.
Another great thing about Atlanta authors? They’re eager to meet you and so are we! So here’s a guide to some standout local authors with compelling new books who will be appearing at the 2019 Decatur Book Festival. We’ll also be at the festival this year with some freebies of our own. Don’t be shy! Stop by and tell us who else should be on our Lit Lovers Guide.
Update: At the 2019 Decatur Book Festival, we asked "What Book Changed Your Life?" and the community leapt at the opportunity to share! We have the full list of responses available right here.
Joshilyn Jackson, Never Have I Ever
Joshilyn Jackson’s ninth work of fiction Never Have I Ever is a gripping read filled with plot twists you’ll never see coming. Amy Whey is happy with her simple life—she adores her family, her job as a scuba instructor, and the neighborhood book club she co-hosts with her best friend Charlotte. That is, until the new neighbor Roux shows up at book club and threatens to expose Amy’s deepest and most shameful secret. In this high stakes game of blackmail and betrayal, Roux and Amy go head to head with Amy putting everything on the line to protect the life she has worked so hard to build for herself.
I would suggest reading this book when you have no other plans because once you start it, you will be hard pressed to put it down. It’s that good.
Catch Joshilyn at Decatur Book Festival on Saturday, August 31, at 11:15am.
Susan Rebecca White, We Are All Good People Here
In February of 2009 I had the distinct pleasure of hosting a launch for Susan Rebecca White’s first book Bound South. The room was filled with excitement, support, and Susan’s mom’s delicious brownies. It’s 10 years later and White is releasing her fourth novel, We Are All Good People Here. It’s White’s first new book in six years and, in my opinion, well worth the wait.
The novel spans three decades beginning in the tumultuous 1960s in Roanoke, Virginia, where two young women from different backgrounds become roommates and fast friends at Belmont College. Eve Whalen grew up in a traditional and wealthy family in Atlanta, while Daniella Gold is the daughter of middle class liberal parents from Georgetown. Their strong bond is tested early on while rushing sororities and encountering blatant bigotry from alumni and students alike.
As the novel progresses and Eve and Daniella part ways we follow them on paths that diverge in unexpected and, in Eve’s case, frustrating ways. Through the lives and mistakes of these two women we encounter the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s and the social movements that shaped our nation and led us to where we are now.
This is a thought provoking and gripping novel that encourages us to look at our shared past. It makes a great read for book clubs.
You can hear from Susan at Decatur Book Festival on Saturday, August 31, at 10:00am.
Zoe Fishman, Invisible as Air
Sylvie Snow is a wife and mother bearing the financial and domestic load for her family all while reeling from the stillborn death of her daughter, Delilah, three years ago. The novel opens as Sylvie is taking care of her recently injured husband Paul. Their sensitive son Teddy is having a hard time connecting to others—both peers and his parents, who are forever changed by their devastating loss.
On the anniversary of her daughter’s death, and feeling completely overwhelmed with both her husband’s care and planning her reluctant son’s Bar Mitzvah, Sylvie takes one of her husband’s discarded pain pills and is surprised by how much lighter and more manageable both her grief and her life seem. As Sylvie’s addiction spirals out of control she begins to do things that threaten her family in unimaginable ways and that will reverberate for the rest of their lives.
Invisible as Air is a compassionately told and beautifully written story of a family in crisis, one that lingers with the reader long after the last page is read.
Hear from Zoe at Decatur Book Festival as she speaks on a panel about peeling back characters’ layers to reveal their vulnerability. Catch her on Saturday, August 31, at 3:00pm.
Lynn Cullen, The Sisters of Summit Avenue
Lynn Cullen is a lover of history. Her thoroughly researched books center the stories of women, often forgotten, in history. Her two most recent books Mrs. Poe and Twain’s Edge illuminated real women who were key players in the lives of famous men. Now she turns this historical approach to fictionalized women with The Sisters of Summit Avenue, which will be released on September 10th.
Set in the Midwest during the Great Depression The Sisters of Summit Avenue tells the story of two sisters estranged by years of bitterness and resentment. Ruth is raising four young daughters and running her family’s farm, and her husband has spent eight years in a comatose state after being infected with sleeping sickness. Her sister June meanwhile enjoys a lavish life, married to a rich doctor and working as one of the “Bettys” recipe testers and brand ambassadors for General Mills’ Betty Crocker test kitchen. And though June’s life seems idyllic to her overworked and wrought sister, her heartbreaks and disappointments run deep.
The 1930s come to life on the pages of Cullen’s novel, which is filled with rich historical details. This mesmerizing novel whisks you away to a time long ago, but with universal truths about family, regret, and reconciliation.
Hear directly from Lynn about her book and the “Bettys” on Monday, September 9, as we host a launch party for The Sisters of Summit Avenue at our Midtown location. Get your tickets now.
If you miss her book launch, you can still see Lynn at Decatur Book Festival on Sunday, September 1, at 12:00pm. She is part of a panel of novelists discussing the development of their characters’ family dynamics.
Want more literary goodness? Check out our Fall Author Program lineup. From ground-breaking historians to local standouts and award-winning chefs, this season's certainly worth falling for. In the meantime, we’re excited to see you at Decatur Book Festival this Labor Day Weekend.
Kate Whitman is Atlanta History Center’s Vice President of Author Programs and Community Engagement. Her expertise in and passion for good literature is well known around the office. Everyone makes sure to stop by her desk for book suggestions before they go on vacation.