The Library created its National Book Festival Presents series as a way to bring our annual book festival experience to audiences on a year-round basis. The first program, with actor and magician Neil Patrick Harris, was held in our Coolidge Auditorium last September, and the popular series has seen the likes of Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, young people’s authors Dav Pilkey and Brad Meltzer, and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reynolds. When current circumstances pushed the series to go virtual, we offered a series of programs related to the coronavirus pandemic.
John Barry’s 2004 book, “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History,” found itself on the bestseller lists yet again—suddenly au courant in a way the author could never have predicted. Barry spoke with philanthropist and National Book Festival Co-Chairman David Rubenstein on April 7. Others in the series included David Quammen, discussing his 2012 book, “Spillover,” in which he tracks the animal origins of human diseases through the centuries; and NASA scientist Kate Greene discussed her forthcoming book, “Once Upon a Time I Lived on Mars: Space, Exploration and Life on Earth.” Greene lived in a simulated Martian environment on the slopes of Mauna Loa in Hawaii and spent several months in isolation, doing research. The series ended with bestselling historian Jill Lepore discussing how the effects of the current pandemic, and our reactions to them, say something very real about America in this moment and in the historical record that will emerge from it.
The series leaves talk of the pandemic behind with its upcoming programs, which celebrate the 50th anniversary of LGBTQ Pride and take an international scope with the June series “Connecting the World with Words.” All are available on the National Book Festival Presents page as well as the Library’s YouTube and Facebook pages.
“Celebrating 50 Years of LGBTQ Pride” (Thursday, May 28, 7-8 p.m. EDT)
In honor of LGBTQ Pride month (June) and the 50th anniversary of Pride celebrations, Eric Cervini discusses his book “The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America,” with Roswell Encina, Library of Congress chief communications officer.
JUNE PROGRAM SERIES: “CONNECTING THE WORLD WITH WORDS”
“A Good Story Knows No Borders” (Thursday, June 4, 7-8 p.m. EDT)
Spring event honoring 2019 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction winner Richard Ford, with Marie Arana, Library of Congress literary director. Ford, whose work has been translated into dozens of languages, will speak on the universality of fiction. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden selected Ford for the prize based on nominations from more than 60 distinguished literary figures, including former winners of the prize, acclaimed authors and literary critics from around the world.
Richard Ford is the author of six novels and three collections of stories, including “The Sportswriter” and “Independence Day.” His many honors include the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction, the Siegfried Lenz Prize, the Premio la Lettura, the Princess of Asturias Award for Literature, the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for fiction and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ford is the Mellon Professor and Emmanuel Roman and Barrie Sardoff Roman Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University.
“Ha Jin on the Legendary Poet Li Bai” (Thursday, June 11, 7-8 p.m. EDT)
National Book Award winner Ha Jin discusses his new book, “The Banished Immortal: A Life of Li Bai,” in which he draws on a range of historical and literary sources to weave the life story of the eighth-century Chinese poet Li Bai. Rob Casper, head of the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center, will moderate.
Li Bai, also known as Li Po, Li Pai, Li T’ai-po and Li T’ai-pai (701-762), is one of the most acclaimed poets from the so-called Golden Age of Chinese Poetry of the Tang Dynasty. The almost 1,000 poems attributed to him have influenced poets and artists around the world, including American poets Ezra Pound and James Wright.
Author and poet Ha Jin left China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University and eventually pursued creative writing at Boston University. He is the author of several novels, short story collections, volumes of poetry and essays, including “Waiting,” “War Trash,” “Nanjing Requiem,” “Ocean of Words,” “Under the Red Flag” and “Between Silences.” Jin’s honors include a National Book Award, two PEN/Faulkner Awards, a PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award, an Asian American Literary Award and the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. His latest book of poetry is “A Distant Center.” Jin is currently a professor of English at Boston University.
“Erik Larson, Winston Churchill: The Right Words at the Right Time” (Thursday, June 18, 7-8 p.m. EDT)
Journalist and nonfiction author Erik Larson discusses his latest book, “The Splendid and the Vile,” which tells the story of Winston Churchill during the London Blitz of World War II, with philanthropist and National Book Festival co-chairman David Rubenstein. Larson’s earlier nonfiction bestsellers include “The Devil in the White City,” a saga about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that was a National Book Award finalist; “Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania,” about the British passenger liner sunk by a German U-boat in 1915; “In the Garden of the Beasts,” the tale of America’s first ambassador to Nazi Germany; and “Isaac’s Storm,” Larson’s first book in the genre about the 1900 hurricane that destroyed Galveston, Texas.
“Poetry Ancestors: How Invention Meets Influence” (Thursday, June 25, 7-8 p.m. EDT)
American Book Award winner Kimiko Hahn and fellow award-winning poet Rajiv Mohabir talk about invention and influence across borders, and how poetry serves as a model for our moment, with Washington Post Book World critic Ron Charles.
Kimiko Hahn is the author of 10 books of poetry, most recently “Foreign Bodies.” A former president of the Poetry Society of America, she is currently a distinguished professor in the MFA program at Queens College. She is a recipient of the Shelley Memorial Prize and the PEN/Voelcker Award. Hahn has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Indo-Caribbean poet Rajiv Mohabir has received the Four Way Books book prize for his poetry collection “The Taxidermist’s Cut,” the Kundiman book prize for “The Cowherd’s Son” and the PEN/Heim Translation Grant for his translation of “Holi Songs of Demerara” by Lalbihari Sharma, originally published in 1916, as the only known literary work written by an indentured servant in the Anglophone Caribbean.