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Old Dominion University will host its 44th Annual Literary Festival, “Afterwards,” as a series of virtual and in-person events free and open to the public from Oct. 3 to 7. The festival will feature an array of debut and renowned writers and performers who address the aftermath of trauma and the changes wrought as we question, recognize and exult the process of survival. Readings will be followed by conversation and questions from the audiences.

Festival headliners include Matt Bell whose latest novel, “Appleseed,” a work of speculative fiction exploring climate change, manifest destiny and the depletion of natural resources, was named a “Best Book of the Summer” by major publications including The New York Times. Also featured will be Meredith Talusan, the author of “Fairest,” a widely praised memoir about coming of age as a transgender Filipino American person with albinism, whose reading is sponsored by the ODU Gay Cultural Studies program.

“The festival theme, ‘Afterwards,’ explores the ways in which we are changed by challenges we have faced, whether by the global struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic, or the conflict within a single human heart,” said Kent Wascom, assistant professor of English and co-chair of the festival with Katherine Jackson, master lecturer of English. “It is with great pride that we present a festival that reflects the diversity and accomplishment of American and World letters, with a special emphasis on highlighting new and emerging writers – those who have reckoned with the past and present, and who will shape the future of the literary world.”

In the tradition of previous ODU festivals, this year’s lineup features several debut writers whose work is achieving critical acclaim. Tom Lin’s debut novel, “The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu,” reimagines the classic Western from the point of view of a Chinese American outlaw on a mission to rescue his kidnapped wife. Dantiel W. Moniz, who received the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction and the Cecelia Joyce Johnson Emerging Writer Award by the Key West Literary Seminars, will discuss her first collection of short stories, “Milk Blood Heat,” in an event sponsored by the Department of Women’s Studies. Kelly Jo Ford, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, will discuss her debut novel titled “Crooked Hallelujah.”

Mansoor Adayfi, whose first book is a memoir titled “Don’t Forget Us Here,” will participate in the festival from Belgrade, Serbia, where he writes and advocates for prisoner and detainee rights. Kidnapped by warlords and turned over to the U.S. after 9/11, he was rendered to Guantánamo Bay where he spent the next 15 years without being charged with a crime. Art by Adayfi and other former and current detainees will be featured in the spring 2022 exhibition, “Art from Guantánamo Bay” at ODU’s Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries on Monarch Way.

Additionally, a dramatic reading of a scene from the play, “A Distinct Society,” will follow a discussion by writer and director Kareem Fahmy. The play is set in a small library on the border of Canada and the United States that becomes a meeting place for families who are separated from one another by the “Muslim ban.”

Locations vary [in-person and online]
A full schedule of events is available online at odu.edu/litfest where instructions for joining the events will be posted. Events also will be livestreamed on Facebook @ODULitFest.

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