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Stacey Abrams coming to Madison – virtually – for Wisconsin Book Festival event

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Some would say she should be the governor of Georgia, and many of the same people would say she should be the next Vice President of the United States. In any case, she’ll be in Madison — virtually — on Thursday, June 18, to discuss her book, Our Time is Now, with Democratic Party of Wisconsin chair Ben Wikler in an event hosted by the Wisconsin Book Festival.

Abrams was the Georgia House of Representatives minority leader from 2011 to 2017 and narrowly lost the race to be Georgia’s governor last year, but never officially conceded to Republican Brian Kemp, who was named the winner despite widespread voting irregularities. She has since become a vocal voting-rights advocate and is considered by many to be among the top tier of candidates to become the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“The whole conversation was trending in the way of the Democratic National Convention (scheduled to be held in Milwaukee) and all the possibilities around (her) future political future, or whether Joe Biden’s going to pick her as the VP candidate or not,” says Conor Moran, director of the Wisconsin Book Festival. “And her book is all about voting and the future of our country, but it’s also intensely based in her experience as an African American woman in the south and her efforts to become the first African American woman governor. And now I think that there’s no better time to be hearing from her on the issues of what her experience has been and how we can change these monolithic institutions through voices like hers and any number of other ones.”

Abrams is this year’s Cheryl Rosen Weston memorial lecturer, named for a longtime Madison attorney and law professor who left a bequest for the Wisconsin Book Festival to be able to buy books to give to attendees; the first 600 people who attend the virtual event will get a free copy of Abrams’ book.

Moran says Wikler and Abrams will “talk about her book, … talk a lot about Wisconsin and Wisconsin politics and ways that we can change here,” followed by plenty of time for questions from the audience.

They may or may not talk about Abrams’ origin story — she was, in fact, born in Madison. But does she consider herself a Wisconsinite?

“I keep saying she was born in Madison. That is true,” Moran says with a laugh. “I think it’s perfectly fair to say she was born here and we can find out, on the 18th, whether she considers herself to be from Wisconsin.”

The Abrams event is one of several set to take place virtually over the coming months, as the festival as postponed some events and recast others in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“At the end of March, we really adjusted our thinking on how we were going to be able to do things,” Moran says. “We realized very quickly that we were not going to be able to be coming back to large scale gatherings for at least six to eight months. And so we transitioned pretty quickly.”

Moran says moving events online has actually opened up more possibilities for different kinds of speakers and guests.

“You can bring together different people who might not be able to be in a room in Madison, Wisconsin on a Tuesday night. But, as long as your internet connection is relatively good, they can be together for a festival event virtually,” he says.

One such event is a July 14 talk with Sarah Broom, author of the 2019 National Book Award-winning memoir, The Yellow House. The book chronicles 100 years of her family’s history in New Orleans, culminating in the house in which her parents raised 12 children being wiped away in Hurricane Katrina.

All Wisconsin Book Festival events are free, and registration is open now. All events will be held via the online event platform Crowdcast.