Feed Your Literary Appetite 

The Junior League of Richmond's 60th Book & Author Dinner.

May 5, 2005, will mark the Richmond Junior League's 60th Annual Book & Author Dinner, a fund-raiser that's the longest-running event of its kind in the United States. Molly Negus, a four-year Book & Author committee member and this year's chair, explains that the dinner's purpose is to provide Richmonders access "to literary figures who affect what people are reading and discussing and sharing as a community."

The five authors who make up the discussion panel were carefully selected through an elaborate screening process that involved Negus, Assistant Chair Mary Kathryn Woodward and Executive Director Jane Helfrich traveling to New York, spending two days at publishing houses and reading countless galley reviews.

The panel's featured authors will discuss their respective new books, each of which spins a narrative through American life, from its glimmering shores to its inevitable dark underbelly. MSNBC.com contributor Jeannette Walls' personal memoir and first book, "The Glass Castle," pulls readers through raw and stranger-than-fiction accounts of surviving a dysfunctional childhood.

In a contrasting memoir, "My Father's Houses," journalist and commentator Steven Roberts traces three generations of patriarchal lineage from Russia to New Jersey, embodying a fully lived cycle of the American Dream. New York Times best-selling author Jacquelyn Mitchard drills deep beneath the surface of a seemingly perfect family to expose tragedy and betrayal in "The Breakdown Lane." English professor Tayari Jones weaves pure poetry in her account of a young African-American woman's reconciliation with her past in her second novel, "The Untelling." And legendary news anchor Jim Lehrer presents his 15th novel, an unexpected Benjamin Franklin historical thriller, "The Franklin Affair."

For readers hungry for redemption, intrigue or emotional drama, each of these books has received high critical acclaim and should be considered prime summer reading.

Paul Duke, formerly of "Washington Week in Review," is scheduled to return for his 10th consecutive year as host of the evening's festivities. Attendees will have the opportunity to wine and dine on unique creations from the Junior League's cookbooks. The featured books will be for sale and can be autographed at the champagne reception. Also, the 2005 Go Read Richmond book will be announced.

All proceeds from the Book & Author dinner will benefit numerous Junior League outreach programs, including creativity workshops for children, Wonders on Wheels, American Red Cross baby-sitting training and the Family Resource Program.

For the younger literary set, "How a Book Is Born," a free Young Writer's Workshop facilitated by local author Nancy Wright Beasley and illustrator Sarah Matthews, will be held at the Mayo Carter House on Saturday, May 14. The Junior Book & Author Event will debut on Saturday, May 21, at the Byrd Theatre, featuring the 2003 Newbery Award recipient, Avi, author of "Crispin: The Cross of Lead." S

The Book & Author dinner takes place May 5 at 7 p.m. at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Tickets are $60. The Junior Book & Author event is May 21 at 1 p.m. at the Byrd Theatre. Tickets are $10. Tickets can be purchased online at www.jlrichmond.org or by calling 643-4886.

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