Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Susannah Felts

A Family Web

In Nancy Jensen’s multigenerational novel, The Sisters, six women are guided by the past in ways they cannot imagine

October 10, 2012 An engrossing achievement in family narrative, Nancy Jensen’s The Sisters follows three generations of women, illuminating the way decisions—and secrets—can reverberate through decades, fundamentally shaping others’ lives in ways they may never fully understand. What emerges is a multigenerational family portrait that elegantly reveals its individual figures and allows them to reveal one another, while making deft leaps over broad sweeps of time and place. Nancy Jensen will discuss The Sisters at Nashville’s Southern Festival of Books on October 14 at 2 p.m. in Legislative Plaza, Room 31. All festival events are free and open to the public.

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The Bitter Taste of Sugar

Attica Locke’s new literary thriller is much more than a murder mystery

September 25, 2012 The Cutting Season, the second literary thriller from Attica Locke, opens with a murder: the body of a sugarcane field worker, her throat slit, is found in a shallow grave on the grounds of Belle Vie, an antebellum plantation that’s now a tourist attraction and event site. Belle Vie’s manager, Caren Grey, grew up on the plantation grounds. But as clues about the murder begin to surface, Caren sees her vision of Belle Vie’s future, and her own shaky sense of security, begin to crumble. Attica Locke will discuss The Cutting Season at Nashville’s Southern Festival of Books on October 12 at 2 p.m. in Conference Room 1A of the Nashville Public Library. All festival events are free and open to the public.

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Hopeless Dreamers

Jack Hitt goes in search of the defining American trait, and finds himself amid a bunch of adorable amateurs

September 7, 2012 There’s something heady about watching a pro wrangle with the definition of American identity. Almost as much as we love to reinvent ourselves, we love to reinvent the definition of ourselves, to give that narrative a fresh coat of paint. In Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character, Jack Hitt puts himself to this uber-American task, making a lively and ultimately convincing argument about amateurism as a mainstay of American identity. Hitt will discuss Bunch of Amateurs at the twenty-fourth annual Southern Festival of Books, held October 12-14 at Legislative Plaza in Nashville. All events are free and open to the public.

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Messing Around with Veracity

In a book that may or may not be a long essay, and may or may not be a collection of prose poems, T Fleishmann explores the nature of personal truth

July 2, 2012 A hybrid of essay, prose poems, and art criticism, Syzygy, Beauty quietly dodges literary expectations and resists parsing. While the book chronicles a universal strain of story—the bumpy course of a complicated relationship, a love triangle—it does so through an entirely new, occasionally gorgeous script, in language that is both direct and oblique. “How to describe the indescribable might as well be the title of this blurb,” the writer Ander Monson, with whom Fleischmann has studied, writes. “[It] resists being fenced in.”

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Bright Beads on a Thread

For May Justus, the late children’s author from East Tennessee, folksongs were inextricably linked to storytelling

June 28, 2012 A devoted teacher of Appalachian children and the author of more than sixty books for children, May Justus rarely traveled from her home in East Tennessee. But her books, written over half a century, were read widely and reviewed in the major media, awarded prizes, and collected in libraries. Now the Tennessee Folklore Society and Jubilee Community Arts of Knoxville have released May Justus: The Carawan Recordings, a collection of traditional mountain ballads sung by Justus. The recordings help cement Justus’s legacy as an Appalachian folk hero, and they highlight her connection to the famous Highlander Folk School and its contribution to the protest movements of the 1960s.

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Fighting the Summer Slide

At the Children’s Festival of Reading, Knoxville hosts a star-studded lineup of authors that will turn kids on to books

May 11, 2012 A celebration of children’s literature held annually in downtown Knoxville, the Children’s Festival of Reading is the Knox County Public Library’s way of rallying interest in summer reading. Founded eight years ago, the festival combats the too-common notion among kids that reading is a chore or punishment, something they do only when a teacher makes them. But even while reminding kids of the pleasures of reading, the festival also speaks to something teachers see as a critical problem: the “summer slide,” a loss of academic skills that often happens when students are out of the classroom for weeks in a row. The Children’s Festival of Reading will take place on May 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at World’s Fair Park in Knoxville. All events are free and open to the public.

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