2020 Albany Book Festival

All conversations are available on the dates listed after 1:00 pm with the exception of Sister Helen Prejean (Her event will be live at 7:30pm). All conversations are pre-recorded and available on our YouTube channel so you can watch at your convenience, on any device.  

List of Authors: Ishmael Beah | Noam Chomsky | Edwidge Danticat Kali Fajardo-Anstine Dwight Garner Harold Holzer | Gish Jen | Jane Leavy Cree LeFavour | Colum McCann Matthew McElligott Sierra Crane Murdoch Robert Pollin | Sister Helen Prejean | J. Courtney Sullivan | David Treuer

Ishmael Beah Photo: Priscillia Kounkou H
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September 16 (Wednesday)
Child advocate and UNICEF Ambassador on his new book Little Family

Former child soldier Ishmael Beah is the Sierra Leonean and American author of the novel Radiance of Tomorrow and the memoir A Long Way Gone, which was a #1 New York Times bestseller and has been published in more than 40 languages. His new novel Little Family (2020) is a powerful novel about young people living at the margins of society, struggling to replace the homes they have lost with the one they have created together. He is a UNICEF Ambassador and Advocate for children affected by war, and a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Advisory Committee.

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Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin, Climate


September 21 (Monday)
Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal with Robert Pollin

Considered the founder of modern linguistics, Noam Chomsky is one of the most cited scholars in modern history. Bill Moyers has called Chomsky “America’s leading dissenter." He has written more than 100 books, his most recent being Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power. Chomsky has received numerous awards, including the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, the Helmholtz Medal and the Ben Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science.

Edwidge Danticat Photo: Lynn Savarese.jp
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September 22 (Tuesday) 
A Conversation About the Joys of the Short Story Form with Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Edwidge Danticat’s latest short story collection Everything Inside: Stories, was honored with the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Story Prize, and the Vilcek Prize in Literature. The book was also a pick of the Reese Witherspoon Book Club. Danticat is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah's Book Club selection; Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist; and The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner. Her memoir, Brother, I'm Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. She is a 2009 MacArthur Fellow. 

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Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Sabrina and Corina


September 22 (Tuesday) 
A Conversation About the Joys of the Short Story Form with Edwidge Danticat

Kali Fajardo-Anstine is a National Book Award finalist for her debut short story collection Sabrina & Corina (2019), which was also selected a finalist for the PEN/Bingham Prize and The Story Prize and longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize. Drawing from her Southern Colorado heritage and life experiences living across the American West, Fajardo-Anstine’s writing and lectures reflect her own heritage as a Colorado Chicana with roots in Indigenous, Latina, and Filipino cultures.

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September 15 (Tuesday) 
A Conversation About Books and a Bookish Marriage with Cree LeFavour

Dwight Garner is a book critic for The New York Times and previously worked as the senior editor of The New York Times Book Review. He was also a founding editor at salon.com. His essays and criticism have also appeared in The New Republic, Harper’s Magazine, Esquire, Slate, and elsewhere. He is married to Cree LeFavour. His new book Garner's Quotations: A Modern Miscellany will be published in November 2020.

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Harold Holzer, The Presidents vs The Pre


September 11 (Friday)
On his latest book The Presidents vs. The Press  

Harold Holzer, one of the country's leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War era, has authored, co-authored or edited 52 books. In his newest book, The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle Between The White House and the Media—From the Founding Fathers to Fake News, Holzer guides readers through the clashes between chief executives and journalists, showing how these battles were waged and won, while girding us for a new fight to protect our nation’s greatest institution: a free and functioning press. Holzer’s 2012 book, Lincoln: How Abraham Lincoln Ended Slavery in America, was the official young adult companion book to the Steven Spielberg film “Lincoln,” for which he served as script consultant.

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September 14 (Monday)
Taking risk with your writing with Jane Leavy  

Gish Jen has published short work in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, and dozens of other periodicals, anthologies and textbooks. Her work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories four times, including The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike.  Nominated for a National Book Critics’ Circle Award, her work was featured in a PBS American Masters’ special on the American novel and is widely taught. Stephen King praised The Resisters – her eighth book – as "An absolute joy." 

Jane Leavy, credit Richard Mallory Allnu
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September 14 (Monday)
Taking risk with your writing with Gish Jen 

Jane Leavy’s new book, The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created, has been called a "masterpiece…. A major work of American history by an author with a flair for mesmerizing story-telling.” (Forbes magazine). A former sportswriter at The Washington Post, she is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Last Boy, Mickey Mantle and the End of American Childhood, and Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy. She also wrote the comic novel Squeeze Play, which Entertainment Weekly called “the best novel ever written about baseball.”

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September 15 (Tuesday)
A Conversation About Books and a Bookish Marriage with Dwight Garner

Acclaimed food writer Cree LeFavour’s first novel, Private Means, published in May, captures the very essence of summer in a sharply observed, moving meditation on marriage, money, and loss. LeFavour is the author of the memoir Lights On, Rats Out and several cookbooks, including the James Beard Award-nominated Fish. “[Private Means] feels like an Ian McEwan novel. Served on a bed of Cheever. I can’t offer higher praise than that. But written by a woman. Which is even better.”— Elizabeth Gilbert

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September 18 (Friday)  
Award winning author on his newest novel Apeirogon

National Book Award winner Colum McCann’s newest novel Apeirogon has been longlisted for the Booker Prize. He is the internationally bestselling author of the novels TransAtlantic, Let the Great World Spin, Zoli, Dancer, This Side of Brightness, and Songdogs, as well as three critically acclaimed story collections and the nonfiction book Letters to a Young Writer. McCann’s fiction has been published in more than 40 languages and has received many international honors. He has received a Guggenheim fellowship, the Pushcart Prize, and an Oscar nomination for his short film, “Everything in This Country Must.”  

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September 23 (Wednesday)
On his latest book DO NOT EAT THE GAME!

Matthew McElligott is the author of several books for children, including The Mad Scientist Academy and Benjamin Franklinstein series. His newest picture book DO NOT EAT THE GAME!, released in May, is told through a game board and is the perfect read-along for family game nights. He is a professor and chair of the Art + Design Department at Sage College of Albany.

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September 17 (Thursday) 
On her first book Yellow Bird with David Treuer

Sierra Crane Murdoch’s first book Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman's Search for Justice in Indian Country, published in February, has been named one of the most anticipated books by the Chicago Tribune, BuzzFeed, Newsweek, and LitHub among other publications. Crane Murdoch has been awarded a Middlebury Fellowship in Environmental Journalism, a visiting fellowship in the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California Berkeley, and a MacDowell Fellowship.

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Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin, Climate


Robert Pollin’s 2015 book Greening the Global Economy provides a penetrating analysis of the challenge of global warming and a compelling plan to stabilize the environment while creating jobs and advancing social justice. Pollin is a Distinguished Professor of Economics and Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. 

September 21 (Monday) 
Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal with Noam Chomsky
Sister Helen Prejean Photo: Scott Langle
Sister Helen Prejean, River of Fire cove


Sister Helen Prejean a Roman Catholic nun and a preeminent advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. Her bestselling book about ministering to death row inmates, Dead Man Walking (1993), was adapted as a 1995 film starring Susan Sarandon (as Sister Helen) and Sean Penn. Her new memoir, River of Fire (2019), recounts her spiritual journey from praying for God to solve the world’s problems to engaging full-tilt in working to address societal injustices.

This event will be streamed live on our YouTube page at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24. 

September 24 (Thursday) - Live Event at 7:30pm 
Roman Catholic Nun and Advocate for the Abolition of the Death Penalty
J. Courtney Sullivan Photo: Michael Lion
J. Courtney Sullivan, Friends and Strang

J. Courtney Sullivan is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Commencement, Maine, The Engagements, and Saints For All Occasions. Maine was named a Best Book of the Year by Time magazine, and a Washington Post Notable Book for 2011. Her new novel Friends and Strangers, published in June, was named a “Today Show” #ReadwithJenna Book Club pick.

September 10 (Thursday) 
Bestselling Author on her new novel Friends and Strangers
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David Treuer, The Heartbeat of Wounded K


David Treuer grew up Ojibwe on a Minnesota reservation and trained as an anthropologist. His New York Times bestseller The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present was a finalist or the 2019 National Book Award. It melds memoir and reportage to tell the story of American Indians since the end of the nineteenth century to the present. "Chapter after chapter, it's like one shattered myth after another." - NPR

September 17 (Thursday)  
On his novel The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee with Sierra Crane Murdoch


Jackie Orchard
Workshop:  So you’re young and want to write.
Saturday, September 12th, 12:00pm-1:00pm
Click here to register on Eventbrite

Jackie Orchard is a reporter and producer at WAMC Northeast Public Radio. She previously served as an Army Officer working in the Signal Corps in Alaska. Orchard holds two bachelor’s degrees and achieved a 4.0 GPA at the University at Albany while studying journalism and serving as editor-in-chief of the Albany Student Press campus newspaper. (photo credit: Bailey Cummings)

Elaine Salisbury
Workshop:  So you’re young and want to write.
Saturday, September 12th, 12:00pm-1:00pm
Click here to register on Eventbrite

Elaine Salisbury is a print journalist whose work has taken her abroad to the Middle East, Africa, Europe and throughout the United States. She has worked as an editor for the Associated Press and as a reporter for Reuters. Salisbury’s two published books include The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic (NY: Norton, 2003) and Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art (NY: Penguin, 2009).  Provenance has been named an ALA Notable Book, Edgar Award Finalist, and Oprah Reading Pick, and is in development for a film.

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Workshop: The How-To’s and Business End of Publishing During a Pandemic
2 p.m. Saturday, September 12 
Click here to register on Eventbrite

Mary Valentis is associate professor of English at the University at Albany. She is the author of Female Rage: Unlocking Its Secrets, Claiming Its Power (1994); Brave New You (2001); and Romantic Intelligence, How To Be As Smart In Love As You Are In Life (2003). Her writing has also appeared in Self, New Woman, and Cosmopolitan, as well as in scholarly books, journals and collections. She recently completed a novel about Edith Wharton’s mid-life sexual awakening.

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Workshop:  Ask Tom Anything About Book Writing, Publishing, or Marketing.
Saturday, September 19th 11am-12pm
Click here to register on Eventbrite

Tom Swyers is an award-winning author and publisher of three Amazon bestselling novels set in New York State: Saving Babe Ruth, The Killdeer Connection, and Caged to Kill.  Both traditionally and independently published, he’s been responsible for every facet of creating books that readers enjoy. When he’s not writing or practicing law, he’s consulting other authors and publishers on creating and marketing their books.  

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Workshop:  Memoirama: Everything You Need To Know To Write Memoir
Saturday, September 19th, 2:00pm-3:30pm
Click here to register on Eventbrite

Marion Roach Smith has taught a sold-out class called “Writing What You Know” since 1998. She is the author of four books, including The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text on Writing & Life. She is a former staff member of The New York Times and has written for Martha Stewart Living, Prevention, New York Daily News, Vogue, and Good Housekeeping.

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Workshop:  Hope on the Page: A Climate Writing Workshop
Saturday, September 19th, 4:00pm-5:00pm
Click here to register on Eventbrite

Reif Larsen's first novel, The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, was a New York Times bestseller, was translated into twenty-seven languages, and was adapted into a movie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie.) His second novel, I Am Radar, was published by Penguin Press in 2015. His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, GQ, The Harvard Review, Tin House, McSweeney's, Virginia Quarterly Review, Asymptote Journal and The Believer. He is host of The Future of Small Cities event series at the Troy Innovation Garage.