September 03, 2019 News & Features » Cover Story

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Diverse literary events are happening this fall.

click to enlarge Rachel Monroe

Rachel Monroe

Book lovers of all stripes can look forward to the distinctive pleasures of sitting back and being read to as our literary scene kicks off with an array of authors.

Fans of reality shows and true crime podcasts will get an earful when Rachel Monroe reads from her upcoming book, "Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession." Her illuminating exploration of women, violence and obsession feeds a cultural fascination with crime by linking four archetypes — detective, victim, defender and killer — to four true stories about women motivated by obsession.

From a frustrated heiress in the 1940s who created dollhouse crime scenes depicting death to a teenager deeply involved in the online fandom of the Columbine killers who was planning a mass shooting of her own, Monroe's book looks at justice, empathy and the current unquenchable appetite for violence.

Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. at Chop Suey Books, 2913 W. Cary St.

Unusual among literary readings is Adjourn to the Parlor: a Lecture Concert, featuring an in-depth talk and a concert. Based on the rise and fall of Southern parlor songs in Richmond during the Civil War, the event focuses on the area's contribution to the first black spirituals ever published in the United States. Musicians Michael Gray and Kathy Simpson explore the lives of famous Richmond composers and their connections to people such as Edgar Allan Poe and John Wilkes Booth. After a discussion of the composers' lives, Gray and Simpson will perform songs unheard for more than a century, including some of the first spirituals ever documented by liberated blacks in Richmond.

Sept. 29 at 3 p.m. at the Richmond Public Library, 101 E. Franklin St.

click to enlarge Chris Terry
  • Chris Terry

Virginia Commonwealth University graduate Chris Terry will read from his new novel, "Black Card," which addresses the quagmire of being young, black and in love. Its strength is how well it peels back all the tricky layers of race, identity and belonging — the hardest parts of being young — as the mixed-race narrator tries to navigate the mostly white punk world. When he witnesses a racist incident and stays quiet, his black card is revoked by Lucius, his guide through race-challenged Richmond. The novel follows his attempts to win back his black card while becoming a suspect in an attack on a black female co-worker.

Oct. 10 at 6 p.m. at Babe's of Carytown, 3166 W. Cary St.

click to enlarge Jesmyn Ward
  • Jesmyn Ward
click to enlarge Alex Kotlowitz
  • Alex Kotlowitz

Looking for an event with serious literary and cultural chops? Jesmyn Ward and Alex Kotlowitz in Conversation should be required for anyone interested in moving Richmond's race conversation forward. Ward, a MacArthur fellow and the first woman and person of color to win two National Book Awards for fiction, has been called the standout writer of her generation. In addition to novels, memoir, and nonfiction, she's also the editor of the critically acclaimed anthology "The Fire This Time: a New Generation Speaks about Race." Ward will be interviewed by bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz, long recognized for his unflinching look at race and poverty in America through books, radio and documentary film. His 1991 book, "There Are No Children Here: the Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America," told the story of youth raised in public housing projects. This is the inaugural Read Up, Richmond event and will be followed by an audience Q&A.

Oct. 14 at 7 pm. at Main Library, 101 E. Franklin St.

click to enlarge Dale Brumfield
  • Dale Brumfield

For local dirt, Dale Brumfield, also a Style Weekly contributor, discusses his book, "The Notorious History of the Virginia State Penitentiary," which looks at the prison's long history, from the laying of the cornerstone in August 1797 near the what is today Belvidere and Spring streets, through the fires, earthquake, riots and escapes that erupted before it was demolished in 1991. Author, journalist and cultural archaeologist Brumfield traces the sometimes barbaric, occasionally uplifting history of the people inside what was once a notorious Richmond landmark.

Nov. 6 at noon in the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, 428 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd.

click to enlarge Michael Twitty
  • Michael Twitty

Author Michael Twitty reads from his award-winning book, "The Cooking Gene: a Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South." In his compelling memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture, culinary historian Twitty traces his ancestry — both black and white — while offering fresh perspectives on race through food, from Africa to America and from slavery to freedom. Twitty believes that healing comes from embracing the discomfort of the Southern past and that food has the power to bring descendents of the enslaved and former slaveholders to the table to discover the real America together.

Nov. 14 at 5:30 p.m., the Library of Virginia, 800 E. Broad St.

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