An expansive slate of in-person and virtual events line the Virginia Festival of the Book’s 2022 schedule. Spanning from March 16 to March 20, the annual Virginia Humanities program aims to engage authors and readers in conversation about books, reading and literary culture generally.
After holding the Festival virtually for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, program director Jane Kulow announced a hybrid format for this year’s festival. For the first time, the program will feature in-person events located in Charlottesville and across Albemarle County — which will be live-streamed and recorded for later viewing online — as well as completely virtual events, featuring speakers from a wide range of places, such as University of San Francisco law professor Rhonda V. Magee and Ohio-based editor Meredith Pangrace.
“There are so many attributes to the virtual programs that make the work accessible and make authors accessible to us who otherwise wouldn’t be,” Kulow said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “Of course, there are attributes to local programs that we’re so glad we can include again too.”
The Festival is intertwined with the University beyond just those events located in Charlottesville, however. University faculty from a wide range of backgrounds and departments will participate in discussions centered on a variety of themes. From explorations of environmental and personal connections in poetry to books which recount the resistance of enslaved laborers, participating faculty members aim to draw on their unique research interests and personal experiences, which have culminated in their recently published works, over the program’s five-day period.
On the first day of the festival, Civil War-era historians Andrew Lang and Jonathan White will join Caroline Janney, University professor and director of the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History, in conversation about their involved research.
“My research really is a combination of social, political and military history, examining how a nation at war with itself resolves that,” Janney said. “What are the meanings attached, both on a pragmatic and an ideological level, to ending a civil war?”
Their discussion will also touch on books regarding the experiences, ideas and written correspondence that defined the Civil War period and how they have shaped American perceptions of the era even today. Hosted at the U.Va. Bookstore from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and sponsored by the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History, book sales and signing will follow the talk.
As part of the Democracy and the Informed Citizen Initiative — which explores the ways local journalism contributes to an informed citizenry — digital media innovator Jim Brady will moderate a discussion between University professors Christopher Ali and Jennifer Lawless on Thursday.
Ali and Lawless recently published their respective books “Farm Fresh Broadband” and “News Hole.” Both books concern challenges to the accessibility of local news, including struggling newspapers and the widening gap between rural and urban broadband access in the age of digital news. One of the Festival’s virtual events, the discussion will be live-streamed on Facebook at 10 a.m. and will also be available for viewing afterward on their website.
Although not as directly connected with the University, an event focused on women’s experiences with the healthcare system will be moderated by representatives from The Women’s Initiative, showcasing the Festival’s willingness to engage with organizations in the Charlottesville community. Authors Taylor Harris, Anushay Hossain and N. West Moss will draw on the personal experiences laid out in each of their books to share their insights into how modern medicine is practiced. Hosted by the Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, the discussion will also be live-streamed on Facebook, and books will be available for sale and signing afterward.
On Saturday evening, Justin Reid, the Virginia Humanities director of community initiatives, will moderate a highly anticipated in-person conversation between authors Ralph Eubanks, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson and Imani Perry. Their discussion will focus significantly on separating real aspects of the American South from fictional ones.
“We have the opportunity to hear from three people who have a lot to share about that,” Kulow said. “They’ve lived in the South, they’ve written about the South, and their experiences traveling, talking with people, reading and researching all bring us to a conversation like none other.”
Johnson is a local author who recently published “My Monticello,” a collection of fiction, while Eubanks authored “A Place Like Mississippi” and Perry wrote “South to America” — all three books are centered on the meaning of belonging in the South. As the program’s headliner, this is the only ticketed event and will begin at 7 p.m. at The Paramount Theater.
Wrapping up the Festival at 3 p.m. Sunday, poet Victoria Chang and University professor Rita Dove will read from and talk about their recently published collections “Obit” and “Playlist for the Apocalypse,” respectively. Both are decorated authors, as Chang won the 2021 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for “Obit,” and Dove was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995 before serving as the Poet Laureate of Virginia between 2004 and 2006. Book sales and signing will occur after the in-person discussion at the Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center, but the event will be live-streamed on Facebook as well for those who cannot be in attendance.
Offering a return to normalcy as the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be receding, most in-person Festival venues have limited capacity and protocols regarding the COVID-19 pandemic are specific to each location. All events over the program’s five-day period are open to the public, and the majority are free — with the exception of Saturday evening’s headlining talk — affording those in the Charlottesville community ample opportunity to explore what the Festival has to offer, both in-person and virtually.