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The student news site of Western Albemarle High School - Crozet, VA

The Western Hemisphere

The student news site of Western Albemarle High School - Crozet, VA

The Western Hemisphere

The student news site of Western Albemarle High School - Crozet, VA

The Western Hemisphere

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Festival of the Book Uplifts Diverse Voices

Authors Flock to Charlottesville to Share their Work
%28R+to+L%29+Jimin+Han+and+Denene+Millner+sign+books+and+engage+with+event+attendees.
Credit: Ika Gottlieb
(R to L) Jimin Han and Denene Millner sign books and engage with event attendees.

The Virginia Festival of the Book brings together writers from all around the country to share their diverse voices with the citizens of Charlottesville. Now in its 30th year, the festival will run from March 20-24, and will be located at a variety of venues, including New Dominion Bookshop, the City Council Chambers, and the Omni Hotel. Many events require the purchase of tickets beforehand, but some are open admission on a first-come-first-served basis; a large portion of the events will be livestreamed for those who do not wish or are not able to attend in-person.

The festival mainly targets community members who are already readers, but it also aims to uplift reading and welcome all, regardless of how much they read. “These authors are featured because they have diverse and empowering books, and that needs to reach more areas of the community,” sophomore Kae Gott said.

The diverse voices that the festival brings in are a crucial part of what it stands for and aims to accomplish. Jennifer Hasher, a volunteer for the festival, said, “I think if we all just read about people who were like us, we wouldn’t really learn a whole lot. I think it is very, very important to hear all those different viewpoints.”

However, as Gott alluded, the festival largely lacks a younger audience. Especially at a time when students are reading books less and less, it is important that high school students are aware of and involved in events such as the Festival of the Book.

“I think that as humans we are designed to work in a narrative frame. We understand things better when there’s a narrative, and I think we’re losing the ability to sit down for prolonged periods of time to read and explore different people’s narratives. My hope with something like the Festival of the Book… is that people [will] get back to reading in a less small, soundbite kind of way,” Zoe Padron, the Talent Development Resource Teacher at WAHS, said.

In the past, Padron explained, authors would also come to schools, including Western, to speak as a part of the festival, but “the pandemic killed some of that stuff for us.” She hopes that in the future, the library will be able to host such events to help rejuvenate reading in the WAHS community.

Although events are mostly limited to areas in downtown Charlottesville, there will be one coming to Crozet’s own Bluebird Books this Friday, March 8. Aubrey Ingram will be coming to discuss her latest novel, “The River Runs South,” an Alabama-set story about a woman starting over fresh after the death of her husband.

Other notable speakers include Ada Limon, the current US Poet Laureate, and Roxanne Gay, bestselling author of “The Bad Feminist,” who will both speak at the Paramount on Saturday, Marth 23; Alex E. Harrow, author of “The Starling House,” who will be speaking on a “Dark Imaginations” panel at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center on Thursday, March 21; and Denene Millner, author of “One Blood,” who will be speaking on a “Multigenerational Fiction” panel at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center on Friday, March 22. However, those are only a few of the upcoming events; in reality, the festival will welcome well over 100 speakers.

“There’s something for everybody. You don’t have to be an avid reader to find something that’s going to be really, really interesting,” Padron said.

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About the Contributor
Ika Gottlieb
Ika Gottlieb, Staff Writer
Ika, a sophomore at Western, is new to the journalism staff but looking forward to writing for the Western Hemisphere. Political issues interest her the most, but she finds that most topics are worth writing about. Outside of journalism, she is passionate about language in all its forms, both lingistically and creatively.
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