Home Madison Wisconsin Book Festival underway, focused on diversity

Wisconsin Book Festival underway, focused on diversity


Special promotional content provided by Wisconsin Book Festival.

The Wisconsin Book Festival is already underway, with a series of virtual events leading up to a more traditional, in-person weekend of events later in October.

“It’s an interesting mix,” said WBF Director Conor Moran. “It’s truly hybrid this year.”

The Festival lineup is also intentionally focused on diversity in the titles and authors that it features.

“Without a doubt, when I got my job in 2013 and when I was planning this year’s festival, the lead title or the big book or the thing that’s getting the most conversation around it has definitely changed,” Moran said. “It’s not just that entrenched legacy author that you’ve heard from so many times. We are definitely seeing different people, different voices, different subjects completely being lead titles.”

Moran listed a few of the events that especially highlight that diversity, including:

  • “The Redemption of Bobby Love” by Bobby and Cheryl Love, 7 pm, October 7. Bobby Love escaped from jail at 14 and lived a full life until the authorities caught up to him nearly 40 years later. The event, moderated by Madison365 Executive Editor Robert Chappell, will feature Love and his wife Cheryl. “That’s the kind of book that, you know, maybe wasn’t getting the type of promotion that it’s getting now. We’re so delighted to be able to host them,” Moran said.
  • “Land of Big Numbers” by Te-Ping Chen, 7 pm, October 11. “It’s a debut collection of short stories that’s about daily life in mainland China,” Moran said. “It is fascinating, they are incredibly well-written, and it’s the kind of book I feel like gets attention now that might have just been a mid-list title before.”
  • “A Beginner’s Guide to America” by Roya Hakakian, 5:30 pm, October 21. “It is all about what life is like as an immigrant coming to America. It just takes on things that we wouldn’t talk about in every immigrant conversation, like what it’s like to deal with different consumerism or different ways that you express and receive love, or how death is processed, or what it’s like to experience your race in a new way with new people weighing in on it in a way that it wasn’t when you where you were before. So I think that that will just be a really powerful and interesting conversation.”
  • “The Marathon Don’t Stop” by Rob Kenner, 4 pm, October 22, moderated by scholars from the UW Office of Multicultural Initiatives’s First Wave program. “We’re really glad to partner with OMAI. And then we’re going to have a wonderful event where the first wave cohort acts as the moderator,” Moran said. The book is a biography of Nipsey Hustle and addresses “the kind of community that Nipsey had been creating in LA before he was killed and his impact on the hip hop community in LA pop culture and all of those different things.”

These are just a few of the literally dozens of events on the calendar over the next month, all of which are free to attend. The full calendar is here.

“I’m just really looking for different ways to engage in the topics that we hear about every day in the news,” Moran said. “This year I feel like we’ve done a really interesting job of (featuring) different viewpoints on those things. It’s not just a retelling of a conversation that we had two years ago or three years ago. It’s really trying to find different ways in to kind of unlock other conversations we can have on difficult topics, and fun topics too. We need joy as much as we need critical thought, and so I’m really trying to strike that balance too.”

In-person events at the Central Library downtown Madison and the Discovery Building on the UW campus October 21-24 will, Moran hopes, “seem much more like all of our conception of what the Book Festival weekend feels like.”

Masks and social distancing will be required.

“We’re following city and county guidelines because it’s at the library, and so masks will be required,” Moran said. “It’s basically just following what the library’s been doing this whole time. We’re going to try to keep things safe. The speakers will be distant from the audience a little bit, but for the most part, I think it’ll feel like a pretty familiar Wisconsin Book Festival experience, or at least I’m hopeful.”