44th Annual Literary Festival Explores Tales of Survival
September 23, 2021
Old Dominion University will host its 44th annual Literary Festival, "Afterwards," as a series of virtual and in-person events free and open to the public from Oct. 3 to 7. The festival will feature an array of debut and renowned writers and performers who address the aftermath of trauma and the changes wrought as we question, recognize and exult in the process of survival. Readings will be followed by conversation and questions from the audiences.
Festival headliners include Matt Bell whose latest novel, "Appleseed," a work of speculative fiction exploring climate change, manifest destiny and the depletion of natural resources, was named a "Best Book of the Summer" by major publications, including The New York Times. Also featured will be Meredith Talusan, the author of "Fairest," a widely praised memoir about coming of age as a transgender Filipino American with albinism, whose reading is sponsored by the ODU Gay Cultural Studies program.
"The festival theme, 'Afterwards,' explores the ways in which we are changed by challenges we have faced, whether by the global struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic, or the conflict within a single human heart," said Kent Wascom, assistant professor of English and co-chair of the festival with Katherine Jackson, master lecturer of English. "It is with great pride that we present a festival that reflects the diversity and accomplishment of American and world letters, with a special emphasis on highlighting new and emerging writers - those who have reckoned with the past and present and who will shape the future of the literary world."
In the tradition of previous festivals, this year's lineup features several debut writers whose work is receiving critical acclaim. Tom Lin's first novel, "The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu," reimagines the classic Western from the point of view of a Chinese-American outlaw on a mission to rescue his kidnapped wife. Dantiel W. Moniz, who earned the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction and the Cecelia Joyce Johnson Emerging Writer Award by the Key West Literary Seminars, will discuss her first collection of short stories, "Milk Blood Heat,"in an event sponsored by the Department of Women's Studies. Kelly Jo Ford, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, will discuss her debut novel, "Crooked Hallelujah."
Mansoor Adayfi, whose first book, a memoir titled "Don't Forget Us Here," will participate in the festival from Belgrade, Serbia, where he writes and advocates for prisoner and detainee rights. Kidnapped by warlords and turned over to the United States after 9/11, he was sent to Guantánamo Bay where he spent 15 years without being charged with a crime. Art by Adayfi and other former and current detainees will be featured in the upcoming exhibition, "Art from Guantánamo Bay," opening Jan. 18 at ODU's Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries on Monarch Way.
Additionally, a dramatic reading of a scene from the play "A Distinct Society" will follow a discussion by writer and director Kareem Fahmy. The play is set in a small library on the border of Canada and the United States that becomes a meeting place for families who are separated from one another by the "Muslim ban."
Many of the readings will be virtual. However, in-person events will include readings by local writers Sheri Reynolds, Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley and Molly McCully Brown, who recently joined the faculty of the ODU MFA creative writing program. Additionally, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, who will serve this fall as the Edith and Forrest P. White Writer-in-Residence at ODU, will give a reading in person. Calvocoressi is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry and a Rona Jaffe Woman Writer's Award. Greg Larson, who graduated from the ODU MFA program, and poet Elaine Fletcher Chapman will read at an opening reception sponsored by The Muse Writers Center at The Green Onion restaurant in Norfolk.
The festival's annual reading to celebrate graduates of the ODU MFA program will be given by local journalist and Hampton University professor Lynn Waltz and Mexican-American poet Amanda Galvin Huynh.
In addition to the readings and performances, local poet Lisa Beech Hartz will lead "Talk Back to Art: A Creative Writing Workshop" at ODU Virginia Beach.
The ODU Literary Festival began in 1978 with writers including Charles Wright, W.D. Snodgrass, and Anthony Hecht. Distinguished guests through the years have included Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Raymond Carver, Rita Dove, William Styron, Ernest Gaines, Tony Kushner, Edwidge Danticat and Susan Sontag.