Labor Day weekend fun at AJC Decatur Book Festival

If last year’s numbers hold true, more than 75,000 people will descend on Decatur Labor Day weekend for the 11th annual AJC Decatur Book Festival.

>> NEW: AJC Decatur Book Festival Schedule <<

The free event kicks off Sept. 2 with a keynote event at Emory University’s Schwartz Center that pays tribute to author Pat Conroy, who died of pancreatic cancer in March.

Conroy’s wife, Cassandra King Conroy (“Moonrise”), novelist Ron Rash (“The Risen”) and nonfiction writers Rick Bragg (“All Over but the Shoutin’,” “My Southern Journey”) and Bronwen Dickey (“Pit Bull”) will share stories and read from works by the author of “The Prince of Tides” and “The Great Santini.”

The kidnote speaker is Dav Pilkey, author of the “Captain Underpants” series. His appearance is 5 p.m. Sept. 2 at the Decatur High School’s Performing Arts Center.

Both events are free but require tickets. The tickets for the Conroy event that became available Aug. 4 at are sold out.

For the kidnote address, tickets became available on Aug. 4 at A Cappella Books, Charis Books & More, Eagle Eye Books and Little Shop of Stories. The tickets will be limited to four per person.

Festivities continue Sept. 3-4 when more than 300 authors make appearances on 20 stages in downtown Decatur, where roads will be closed to make way for pedestrian traffic and 200 exhibit booths representing booksellers, publishers, literary organizations and authors. Nearly every genre will be represented, from food and cooking, poetry and science to fiction, graphic lit and memoir. There will also be a host of events for children and teens, and a variety of pop-up performances presented by Arts DBF.

Both days begin with a parade at the Community Bandstand on the Decatur Square. On Saturday (Sept. 3), participants are invited to dress up as their favorite historical figure and line up at 9:30 a.m. On Sunday (Sept. 4), participants dress up as nerds and line up at 11:30 a.m.

Inviting a high-profile author to guest program each year has become a festival tradition. This year, the honor goes to Whiting Award winner Alexander Chee, author of “The Queen of the Night,” an epic novel about a 19th-century opera diva and her colorful past.

Among his picks are journalist Rebecca Traister (“All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation”), poet Idra Novey (“Ways to Disappear”) and novelist Sunil Yapa (“Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist”).

Other highlights include National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson (“Brown Girl Dreaming”), who brings her first adult novel in 20 years to the festival. “Another Brooklyn” is a coming-of-age story set in the ‘70s.

There is a decidedly local flavor to the festival this year.

Thomas Mullen (“The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers,” “The Revisionists”) launches “Darktown” at the festival. Already optioned for a TV series executive-produced by Jamie Foxx, the novel is a police procedural set in 1948 Atlanta that simmers with racial tension when a black woman, who was last seen with a white man, disappears.

Race relations is the topic of several books featured this year, including those by local authors Patrick Phillips, who examines the history of racial injustice in Forsyth County in “Blood at the Root,” and Emory professor Carol Anderson, writing on “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.”

Other local notables include New York Times best-selling author Emily Giffin, who presents her new novel “First Comes Love”; Emory professor Frans de Waal, director of the Living Links Center of Emory’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center, who discusses his book “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?”; and Emory professor and poet Kevin Young, who will read from his book “Blue Laws: Selected and Uncollected Poems.”

Find more top events at the Decatur Book Festival

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