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National Book Award Festival

By Ryan Welch

The National Book Award Festival is coming to Sam Houston State University April 9-16, 2019.  The events begin with a Memoir Workshop called “How to Tell Your Story” at the Wynne Home Arts Center which is followed by a Book-Up Bash at the Huntsville Public Library celebrating children’s books. 

The marquee event brings three National Book Award Finalist authors to the stage at the Gaertner Performing Arts Center to read selected portions of their books and have on-stage discussions, talk-show style, with Dr. Amanda Nowlin-O’Banion as the event’s host. 

The author discussions will be followed immediately with a book signing by the authors.  The National Book Award Festival concludes with two workshops conducted by the authors in the Evans Building, Fiction Craft Talk with Karan Mahajan, and Poetry Craft Talk with Monica Youn.  

The literary events are free and open to the public.  The times, dates, and locations of the events are posted on the flyer.

Dr. Amanda Nowlin-O'Banion is a Clinical Professor of Creative Writing at Sam Houston State University.  As the organizer of the National Book Award Festival O’Banion shared what the festival means to her.

“I grew up here, so for me it means making the community a better place.  I think we each have an obligation to improve the community where we live.  It is really about giving kids and adults the opportunity to read different books that they might not normally come into contact with.”

When O’Banion was asked why this even is important to the Sam Houston State University campus she replied, “We are one of only four campuses in the country to host this event. We represent the southwest and it is an honor.” 

O’Banion further explained, “It is a huge boon to the campus and the community because Huntsville is typically not a spot on anybody’s book tour.”

The three National Book Award Finalists coming to SHSU are Karan Mahajan who wrote The Association of Small Bombs, Erika Sanchez who authored I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, and Monica Youn who wrote two books of poetry titled Ignatz and Blackacre.

According to O’Banion, Karan Mahajan’s Association of Small Bombs begins with a bombing in Delhi and follows the destruction of two families, one Muslim and the other Hindu, as a result of the bombing.  O’Banion said, “The Association of Small Bombs was nominated for the National Book Award in Fiction in 2016.”   

The finalist in the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature is Erika Sanchez’s I’m Not Your perfect Mexican Daughter.  O’Banion said, “The main character, Julia, is the daughter of undocumented parents.  Her older sister Olga had just died, and Olga was seemingly the perfect Mexican daughter.  This book is about Julia learning to live in her own space in a different culture than that of her parents.”

Monica Youn in the author of the two books of poetry, Ignatz and Blackacre.  Ignatz was a 2010 National Book Award Finalist for poetry and Blackacre was long-listed for the National Book Award for poetry in 2017.  Blackacre is a legal term for a hypothetical piece of land in a legal document but instead of representing a hypothetical piece of land, it represents the hypothetical space where a baby might live in a woman who is dealing with infertility according to O’Banion. O’Banion said, “Using this legal term to talk about something unexpected like infertility is what propels this book forward.”

This program is a joint endeavor of Sam Houston State University and the National Book Foundation sponsored by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the MFA Program in Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing.

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