The 23rd annual Texas Book Festival kicks off in Austin Saturday. The festival was first established in 1995 by former First Lady Laura Bush and Mary Margaret Farabee, the wife of former State Senator Ray Farabee. Starting with 40 writers that first year, 23 years later it’s expanded to around 300 authors.
Clay Smith, editor in chief of Austin-based Kirkus Reviews, used to be the literary director of the Texas Book Festival. Smith says that the festival has a somewhat political feel this year because of current events. But the festival will have a range of events that go beyond the political sphere, including panels on fiction, nonfiction and Saturday’s Lit Crawl.
For fiction lovers, the Kirkus Reviews tent will host a fiction panel featuring authors Tayari Jones and Luís Alberto Urrea in conversation about families in novels. Jones’ novel “The American Marriage” tells the story of a woman whose husband has been unjustly incarcerated. Urrea’s “House of Broken Angels” depicts a Mexican-American family and the effect of the national debate about U.S. southern-border policies on their lives.
“The idea here is about family novels that are depicting the complexity of family dynamics in really vibrant ways,” Smith says.
On the nonfiction side, the C-SPAN 2/Book TV tent will host “America on the Fritz: Reporting 2016,” a panel featuring author Ben Fountain who wrote “Beautiful Country Burn Again” – a selection of essays written for the Guardian newspaper – and Amy Chozick, a political reporter assigned to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign for The New York Times.
“Both of them are recollecting what happened during the 2016 election, and may have some interesting insights about what may be happening,” Smith says.
The Lit Crawl, which is celebrating its eighth year, takes place on the evening of Oct. 27. There will be multiple venues to check out, and they will have performances, games, trivia matches and storytelling sessions. Smith says it’s a an opportunity for literary people to come together.
“Literary people, we don’t get together in crowds all that much. It’s really nice to see these crowds of literary people sort of trekking through east Austin,” Smith says.
The Texas Book Festival is free to the public. It takes place in and around the Texas Capitol Oct. 27-28.
Written by Alexia Puente.