Wisconsin Book Festival Returns with Mix of In-Person, Virtual Events


The Wisconsin Book Festival is back with a combination of in-person and virtual events leading up to the four-day celebration on October 21-24.  The fall season began on September 23 with “me too” founder and activist Tarana Burke presenting her book, Unbound, and includes ten author events scheduled before the four-day celebration, 27 events during the celebration, and an additional seven events throughout the rest of the year.

The hybrid festival features a smaller line-up in fewer venues as the festival transitions out of all-virtual mode, with the majority of the in-person events taking place at the Central Library on Saturday, October 23 or at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on the UW-Madison campus as part of the Wisconsin Science Festival on Thursday, October 21 and Saturday, October 23.  Books will be available for sale at the events with limited signing opportunities or pre-signed books available for purchase. All events are free to attend.

Some highlights of the four-day celebration include:

Medical expert Dr. Leana Wen for Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health, Thursday, October 21, 4pm (virtual)
Lifelines is an insider's account of public health and its crucial role—from opioid addiction to global pandemic—and an inspiring story of her journey from struggling immigrant to being one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People.

Guggenheim fellow, poet and essayist Roya Hakakian for A Beginner's Guide to America, Thursday, October 21, 5:30pm (virtual)
A stirring, witty, and poignant glimpse into the bewildering American immigrant experience from someone who has lived it.

Award-winning educator and historian Carol Anderson for The Second, Thursday, October 21, 7pm (virtual)
In The Second, historian and award-winning, bestselling author of White Rage, Carol Anderson powerfully illuminates the history and impact of the Second Amendment, how it was designed, and how it has consistently been constructed to keep African Americans powerless and vulnerable.

Founding editor of Vibe, Rob Kenner, in conversation with scholars from the UW Office of Multicultural Initiatives’s First Wave program, for The Marathon Don't Stop: The Life and Times of Nipsey Hussle, Friday, October 22, 4pm (virtual)
This “beautiful tribute to a legendary artist” (Quincy Jones) is the first in-depth biography of Nipsey Hussle, the hip-hop mogul, artist, and activist whose transformative legacy inspired a generation with his motivational lyrics and visionary business savvy—before he was tragically shot down in the very neighborhood he was dedicated to building up.

Radio host, journalist and public speaker Celeste Headlee for Speaking of Race, Friday, October 22, 7pm (virtual)
In this urgently needed guide, the PBS host, award-winning journalist, and author of We Need to Talk teaches us how to have productive conversations about race, offering insights, advice, and support.

Whiting Award recipient Jaquira Díaz for Ordinary Girls, Saturday, October 23, 3pm (Central Library)
Jaquira Díaz writes fiercely and eloquently of her challenging girlhood and triumphant coming of age.

Defense attorney, motivational speaker and nonprofit leader Jarrett Adams for Redeeming Justice, Saturday, October 23, 7:30pm (Central Library)
He was seventeen when an all-white jury sentenced him to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Now a pioneering lawyer, he recalls the journey that led to his exoneration—and inspired him to devote his life to fighting the many injustices in our legal system.

Events scheduled after the celebration include:

Award-winning basketball reporter and feature writer at The Ringer Mirin Fader for Giannis, Tuesday, November 2, 7pm (virtual)
The story of Giannis Antetokounmpo's extraordinary rise from poverty in Athens, Greece to super-stardom in America with the Milwaukee Bucks—becoming one of the most transcendent players in history and an NBA champion.

Writer and science and culture journalist Jessica Nordell for The End of Bias, Tuesday, November 9, 7pm (virtual)
Drawing on ten years’ immersion in the topic, Jessica Nordell digs deep into the cognitive science and social psychology that underpin efforts to create change.

In the past decade, the Wisconsin Book Festival has intentionally made changes to the festival in line with the library and the city’s focus on racial equity and social justice.  For the Wisconsin Book Festival, that meant specifically inviting and highlighting more authors of color, and creating partnerships like those with First Wave, A Room of One’s Own and other organizations with similar audiences or values. The festival also focuses on local and regional authors, highlighting some of the creative voices we’re seeing come out of the UW-Madison and around the state, like Dantiel Moniz, who spoke about her debut novel, Milk Blood Heat, on September 30, the festival’s first in-person event in over eighteen months.

This year’s events are a timely mix of titles about public health, immigration, racial equity, women’s rights, and education as well as new fiction and poetry.  There’s something for everyone, whether you want to tackle having conversations around difficult topics or want to spark a little joy and creativity.

The festival is hosted and organized by Madison Public Library and the Madison Public Library Foundation with the financial support of signature sponsor Marvin J. Levy, presenting sponsor Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation, and many other funders and in-kind or media sponsors.  See a full list at wisconsinpubliclibrary.org/sponsors.

Per the Face Covering Emergency Order #3, all attendees and authors at in-person events will be be required to wear masks in event spaces.

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