This year’s Decatur Book Festival will honor Samantha Allen, a GLAAD-winning journalist and senior reporter for The Daily Beast, for her book “Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States.” Allen will receive the Judy Turner Community Spirit Award at a reception Thursday evening, Aug. 29, at 7:30 p.m. at Charis Books and More. She will also appear during the festival on a panel with gender fluid writer Jacob Tobia, author of “Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story.”
Allen’s book is about her journey through conservative states where she found community and support. Born male in a Mormon family, Allen was once a suit and tie wearing Mormon missionary. As a Ph.D. student at Emory University in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, she transitioned to female. During a post doc at the Kinsey Institute in Indiana, she met her wife.
The book is about a journey from Utah through Texas and the Bible Belt to Atlanta and on to Bloomington. She says her travel motto was “something gay every day,” and this led her into vibrant communities of LGBTQ outsiders who survived and thrived in the midst of red state conservative culture.
Allen interviews activists and ordinary people to get a sense of the resilience of LGBTQ people and their communities in states that are often thought of as “fly-over” states by queer folk on the coasts. Her reporting underscores the importance of community, especially in places where LGBTQ equality cannot be taken for granted.
Among the other LGBTQ authors who will be at the Decatur Book Festival is Jaime Manrique author of “Like This Afternoon Forever,’ a novel set in his native Columbia about two young men who grow up poor and become priests and secret lovers. The novel explores their lives as they work with the victims of civil violence that comes from the war between the drug cartels, militias and government forces. Manrique is a celebrated novelist, poet, essayist and translator who writes both in English and Spanish. He has won some of Colombia’s top literary prizes and is the recent recipient of Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Publishing Triangle. Manrique will be on a panel with Thrity Umrigar, who will be talking about her seventh novel “The Secrets Between Us.”
Umrigar’s novel deals with a friendship between two of the poorest residents of Mumbai who come together to create a produce stand on a street corner. Each of these women have had extraordinary difficulties and find strength in their friendship where they can open up and share the things that matter most. Umrigar has won a Lambda Literary Award, the Cleveland Arts Prize, and a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard. She teaches English at Case Western Reserve University.
E. Patrick Johnson will be back at the festival presenting his new book “Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women.” It is a companion book to his popular “Sweet Tea: Gay Black Men of the South.” Poet and novelist Ocean Vuong will be at the festival to talk about his new highly acclaimed novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.” Megan Volpert will present her genre bending book “Boss Broad.” Connie L Tuttle will talk about her spiritual memoir “A Gracious Heresy” and poet and spoken word artist extraordinaire Theresa Davis will host the Invitational Poetry Slam Saturday night at Ammazza Pizza. Ammazza Pizza will also host the local poet series featuring Lisa Nanette Allender and Karen G.
Poetry is always a strong part of the Decatur Book Festival. Rigoberto Gonzalez is at the festival with his new collection “The Book of Ruins.” INtown editor Collin Kelley will be reading from his new collection “Midnight in a Perfect World” and Jericho Brown from his new book “The Tradition.” Richard Blanco, the fifth inaugural poet, will be part of Friday night’s keynote on immigration at the Schwartz Center. Blanco is author of three collections of poetry and two memoirs. One of his memoirs recounts his experiences writing the poem for President Obama’s first inauguration.
For scheduling, venues, and more on all the authors at this year’s DBF, visit decaturbookfestival.com.
Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta writer and psychotherapist. He is a volunteer for the Decatur Book Festival and will moderate the panel for Thrity Umrigar and Jaime Manrique. He will also read on the local poets stage on Saturday.