This year’s Decatur Book Festival, happening Aug. 31-Sept. 2, has something for just about everyone. There is the legendary Java Monkey Poetry Stage where some of Atlanta’s finest poets will enchant audiences. There is a dynamic program for children and young adults, a stage devoted to cooking and food, and famous and upcoming authors giving an array of programs and readings. There are booths and pop-up bookstores, food from vendors and Decatur’s fine dining restaurants. Atlanta legend Kenny Leon gives Friday night’s sold-out keynote. And there will be a lot of serendipity if you go with a willingness to explore.

If you are interested in history you are in for some amazing programs. Here are notes on a few featured authors and their works that are definitely worth checking out.

Dr. Maurice J. Hobson, who teaches African American Studies at Georgia State University, will talk about his book “The Legend of the Black Mecca: Politics and Class in the Making of Modern Atlanta.” Hobson, whose family come from the Gulf Coast and who grew up in Selma, has made an incisive study of his adopted home town. He brings his understanding of history as a living discipline to tell the story about how African Americans created a robust academic community in Atlanta and how that community formed the basis of an educated and affluent black city. That was the community that produced some of the most important leaders in the Civil Rights Movement and Atlanta’s first African American mayors, Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young. He talks about the transition in the city from white to black leadership and how both the white and black business communities were essential partners in bringing the 1996 Olympic Games to Atlanta. He also explores the impact of the Atlanta child murders on the city, the divide between the rich and poor and the emergence of the Dirty South hip hop movement.

Dr. Ruby Lal, who teaches South Asian Studies at Emory University,  learned about Empress Nur Jahan when her mother would tell stories of the famed leader. Lal is a noted feminist scholar of the Mughal period of South Asian history and Empress Nur Jahan is the only woman to rule the Mughal empire. In “Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan,” explores the life of the 20th wife of the Emperor Jahangir and the dynamic truth about the first and last woman to rule the Mughal Empire. Nur Jahan was not only the Emperor’s consort, but dominated affairs of state, wrote poetry, was an architect of note and a marks-woman par excellence. She designed a mausoleum for her parents, which is a prototype for the Taj Mahal. Her image appears on coins and her signature on documents of state. No matter what men said about her, her importance is undeniable and Lal documents it all while telling the stunning story of one of the world’s most extraordinary women.

Almost 30 years before Nur Jahan became empress, a small group from Britain landed in what was the New World to form the first English colony on Roanoke Island off the North Carolina coast. Asheville based writer Andrew Lawler has written a history of the lost colony of Roanoke and the obsession about it through American history. In his book “The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke,” Lawler has done the work of a private eye in sleuthing through the minimal evidence about what happened to the Roanoke settlers (only a sign carved on a tree remained) and of the national obsession with their disappearance. The story of the historians and would-be historians who have explored and propagandized the legends of the Lost Colony are as important to understand as the original mystery. Lawler observes, “History is always in rewrite.”

Memoir is perhaps the most intimate for of history. It is one person telling her story. It is as subjective as memory and as objective as felt truth. Former Atlantan Sandra Gail Lambert‘s memoir “A Certain Loneliness’ is an exquisite re-telling of her life experience written in a series that some might consider elegant prose poems. Lambert contracted polio as a young child and her early life was a series of painful operations and long recoveries. She learned to walk with braces and crutches and developed a strong sense of independence. Lambert talks about the repulsive nature of pity, is explicit in her fury at being talked down to, and frank about her her teenage awakening as a lesbian.

For more on the Decatur Book Festival and see the entire schedule of authors and events, visit

Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist, writer, musician and community organizer. His latest project is a double CD of his poetry and music Don’t Go Back To Sleep.