Our reader Nancy Sharko was on the nineteenth annual Library of Congress National Book Festival on August thirty first and shares her experiences with us on this weblog submit. Right here, she talks concerning the panels she attended, that includes Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Beth Macy, Sara Paretsky, Laila Lalami and plenty of extra.
For the nineteenth yr, readers descended on Washington, D.C. in massive numbers for the Library of Congress Nationwide Ebook Pageant. Stories are that there have been over 200,000 attendees, which is mind-boggling. This was my sixth pageant and positively the most important occasion. I went with a childhood good friend who lives in Virginia, and the pageant is at all times an incredible alternative for us to get collectively. Usually, our focus is on the authors who write fiction, however this yr we attended each fiction and nonfiction periods.
As regular, there have been manner too many choices to select from (over 100 authors, illustrators and poets introduced) with 130+ periods. The Essential Stage featured the massive names, together with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and José Andrés, however different well-known authors included Barbara Kingsolver, V.C. Andrews, Joyce Carol Oates, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Ann Beattie and Sigrid Nunez. We each wished to see Justice Ginsburg and Andrés, so we went to the Conference Middle early to get seats within the Essential Stage space in time for the primary occasion (Richard Ford obtained the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, and the award presentation was adopted by a dialog with Ford and Maria Arana).
Ford is a really down-to-earth and fascinating speaker. He spoke fairly a bit about his life rising up in Mississippi (they lived throughout the road from Eudora Welty) and Arkansas, together with some difficult household dynamics. He mentioned that his books aren’t about his life, though some features of it have filtered into one in every of his important characters, Frank Bascombe (each are Democrats and have the identical angle towards sure issues).
Ford may be very concerned with The Lab College in D.C., and I cherished his response to an viewers member who requested about one of the simplest ways to encourage a dyslexic youngster to learn. His view is that each one youngsters have studying variations (not disabilities), and one of the simplest ways to encourage studying is to learn to them.
For Justice Ginsburg and José Andrés, we didn’t go to their periods anticipating to hear them speak about their books (as you do usually throughout all these occasions). It was extra of a chance to listen to them converse in particular person, and they didn’t disappoint. Each have been energetic, entertaining and inspirational.
Ginsburg began the dialog by telling everybody that they may see she’s alive and dealing to get to be very effectively. Together with interviewer Nina Totenberg on the stage have been the 2 girls who’ve been working with Justice Ginsburg for 15+ years on her biographies: Mary Hartnett and Wendy Williams. Her first e-book with them was revealed in 2018 and focuses on her writings. The second might be her biography and can embody a chapter about Antonin Scalia, in her personal phrases.
Ginsburg advised many fascinating and a few humorous tales about her regulation college years, household, and authorized and judicial profession. I encourage everybody to look at the complete presentation on cspan.org, YouTube or the Library of Congress web site. I used to be particularly touched by her feedback about Sandra Day O’Connor (and her advice of Justice O’Connor’s e-book, FIRST). O’Connor was the closest particular person she ever needed to an older sister, serving to her orient to the court docket and thru her first most cancers battle. She additionally recounted cases when individuals confused her for the opposite two feminine justices, however says that doesn’t occur any longer: “Now we’re one third of the bench. My two sisters in regulation are usually not shrinking violets."
José Andrés additionally commanded a full home on the Essential Stage, together with a big group of individuals within the standing-room part. Proper after his session, he was flying to the Bahamas to work on getting his group in place to assist hurricane victims.
A lot of the dialogue between Andrés and interviewer Diane Rehm was about his work in Puerto Rico and tended to be political in nature. He did additionally converse a bit about his two books, WE FED AN ISLAND and VEGETABLES UNLEASHED. He mentioned he wrote the latter as a result of he loves greens, and lots of the recipes are from his spouse and her household. He has various eating places, together with Beefsteak, which he described as a fast-food restaurant that includes greens. The title of the restaurant comes from his love of beefsteak tomatoes, and let me simply say that his description of a beefsteak tomato sandwich was virtually R-rated! He ended his session by offering the viewers with a recipe (grated cauliflower and orzo pasta) and a quick dialogue about his favourite food and drinks.
Our subsequent session was with Beth Macy, writer of DOPESICK: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America, with interviewer Pamela Paul. Macy has a journalism background and mentioned that together with her writing, she has been in a position to specialise in outsiders and underdogs. Her curiosity within the topic additionally has a private component, as she’s from a household with at the least four-plus generations of habit. DOPESICK was probably the most tough e-book she’s written as a result of it was happening throughout her. Whereas there was a good quantity of debate about Purdue Pharma, Macy additionally talked about a number of the people she profiled within the e-book, together with a drug vendor (her first time going to a jail), and he or she spoke about the current demise of one of many people in her e-book.
Lalami is a brand new writer for me. The concept for her latest e-book, THE OTHER AMERICANS, got here to her in 2014. She was on trip when her sister contacted her to let her know their father was close to demise in Morocco (the place she’s initially from). She was in a position to get to Morocco to see him (and he did get well), however felt that she returned to her husband and residential within the U.S. with a way of concern skilled by many immigrants. She lives with the concern that she is probably not out there to her getting old mother and father once they want her. This feels like an fascinating premise, so I’ve added the e-book to my TBR listing.
The ultimate writer we noticed was Sara Paretsky, who was interviewed by Maureen Corrigan. I’ve been studying Paretsky’s books for years, and it was a deal with to have the ability to see her in particular person. There was some dialogue about her most up-to-date e-book, SHELL GAME, but in addition fascinating dialog about her follow of getting robust feminine characters and addressing societal points in her books. V.I. Warshawski, her important character, is a powerful and decided non-public investigator in Chicago, and Paretsky was one of many earliest authors to do that.
THE SHELL GAME additionally displays her activism, together with characters who’re Syrian refugees, ISIS and rogue ICE brokers. She mentioned that her strategy is to jot down what you care about, which has at all times led to totally different societal points being part of her books. Immigration is one in every of her areas of curiosity, each in her fiction writing and in her actual life. For example, she is a part of a gaggle of people that attend immigration hearings, as a result of if an immigrant has extra seen assist in a listening to, they’re extra more likely to get an extension. She has obtained criticism for this, however feels that her books symbolize her true self, which is essential to her.
One closing remark: I do know that many individuals don’t stay as conveniently as I do to D.C., however the Pageant is a superb excuse to plan a trip to the world. There are many different locations to see and issues to do right here, and curiously the resort costs on the finish of the summer time are very cheap. The one draw back is the climate, which might be pretty sizzling and humid.