Mississippi College Alumni Among Featured Authors at State’s Largest Literary Lawn Festival

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Since its inception in 2013, the Mississippi Book Festival has featured some of Mississippi College’s most talented authors while celebrating the state’s rich literary tradition.

With the festival’s return to an in-person event, this year should be no different.

Thousands of writers, publishers, and book lovers from across the Southeast will have the opportunity to meet more than 170 of their favorite authors during the state’s largest “Literary Lawn Festival,” scheduled from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20, at the Mississippi State Capitol building and grounds in Jackson.

The free event celebrates the hottest new books and the storytellers behind them, such as “Lying and Making a Living: Fiction with Footnotes,” a collection of short stories by celebrated artist and author William Dunlap ‘67; “Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress 1900-2017,” a historical tome by former Congressman Gregg Harper ‘78; and “Walter Anderson: The Extraordinary Life and Art of the Islander,” a companion to the Southeast Emmy Award-winning documentary co-written by Anthony Thaxton ‘94; among many other selections.

In addition to rubbing elbows with the state’s giants in literature, attendees can partake in more than 40-panel discussions featuring many of Mississippi’s top authors.

Dunlap, who will take part in one of the panel discussions, compared the festival to a similar event in Austin, Texas.

“The Mississippi Book Festival is like the Texas Book Festival, given that both meet on the grounds of their respective state capitols,” he said. “The Mississippi Book Festival has better writers and better readers, and meets in August, so it’s definitely hotter. But no matter the weather, every time I’ve attended, it has been a memorable occasion, and I expect 2022 to be no exception.

“It is a matter of pride to point out that MC has contributed more than its fair share of writers and readers to the cultural mix. It’s hard to imagine a book festival without Mississippi College being involved.”

Precautions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic moved the festival online last year, but Dr. Christian Pinnen, MC associate professor of history and political science, expects this year’s in-person gathering to reinvigorate the usual festivities.

“I have always loved the book festival since I came to Jackson and MC, so I was very excited when they contacted me to serve on a panel last year,” said Pinnen, author of “Complexion of Empire in Natchez: Race and Slavery in the MS Borderlands,” the Mississippi Historical Society’s 2021 Book of the Year, and coauthor of “Colonial Mississippi: A Borrowed Land.” “While it was remote and the panel was recorded, I still enjoyed the experience.

“I am very glad the festival is back on track to be held in person this year. It has been so amazing in past years to walk among the throng of people bustling about, meeting writers from all fields and listening to their experiences, findings, and stories. It is really a special event for Mississippi and the Jackson area.”

He said MC faculty, staff, and students would enjoy discovering new works, meeting Mississippi authors, getting their books signed, exploring panel topics, or merely visiting with fellow bibliophiles while basking in the late summer sunshine on the bucolic grounds of the state capitol.

“For MC students, the festival represents a wonderful opportunity to experience what a capital city can give them, and the plethora of topics and authors present,” he said. “They can likely get a signature from one of their favorite authors while listening to people like Jesmyn Ward (the first woman and person of color to win two National Book Awards for fiction) explore their own writing, for example.

“The students can simply participate in what is at the heart of a liberal arts education at Mississippi College: an open exchange of ideas and continued pursuit of learning and academic excellence, in and out of the classroom. The festival also usually has multiple luminaries from the world of art and politics, and some amazing examples of Jackson’s growing food truck scene. It’s always fun!”

To learn more about the panels and to read biographies of the authors scheduled to appear at the festival, including those of participating MC alumni, visit www.msbookfestival.com.

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