At each year’s Unbound Book Festival, Columbia’s literary community merges and mingles with authors from much farther afield.
Readers might eagerly anticipate a favorite author’s arrival—or claim a new writing hero after encountering a particular panel or reading.
With so many authors on approach — and to keep straight — it’s helpful to gain a sense of who’s who. Here are just nine of the many faces to watch for at this year’s Unbound, which runs April 21-24.
Learn more about this edition of the festival at https://www.unboundbookfestival.com/.
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Who Berry is: The Canadian critic and journalist penned 2020’s “On Nostalgia,” a book which the Toronto Star called “thick, complex and layered, but leavened with a sly wit.” The work’s tagline reads: “From Mad Men to MAGA: how nostalgia came to be and why we are so eager to indulge it.”
Berry’s articles include pieces of criticism, reporting and reflection on “Schitt’s Creek,” Harry Nilsson, Guillermo del Toro, Key and Peele, Leonard Cohen and more.
Where to catch him at the festival: Author Conversation: Seriously Funny, 1:30 pm April 23 at Serendipity Salon; Those Were the Days panel 3:15 pm April 23 at The Broadway hotel
Find Berry online: http://thedavidberry.com/ or on Twitter @pleasuremotors
St. Clair Detrick-Jules
Who Detrick-Jules is: Gifted across genre and discipline, the Washington DC-based artist is a photographer, filmmaker and author. Her films of her include the short documentary “DACAmented,” a visual profile of nine Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. And her 2021 book “My Beautiful Black Hair” honors natural hair as a key feature of Black womanhood.
Where to catch her at the festival: 10 am April 23 at Ragtag Cinema
Find Detrick-Jules online: https://www.stclairdetrickjules.com/ or on Twitter @stclair_dj
Who Hawkins is: A professor and associate provost at Columbia College Chicago, Hawkins is a self-described “transgenre writer” whose work spans nonfiction, visual memoir, video essays, podcasts and more.
Hawkins’ 2019 book “These are Love(d) Letters” delivers a tender, tenuous treatment of love letter as genre, beginning with their parents’ love letters and spooling out to consider their own experience of family, sexuality, creativity and identity.
“As poetic as it is visually enticing, the book offers both an unconventional and queer(ed) understanding of the documentary form, which will excite both readers and artists across and beyond genres,” the author’s website notes.
Where to catch them at the festival: Queer Time panel, 1:30 pm April 23 at The Broadway hotel
Find Hawkins online:https://www.ameshawkins.com/ or on Twitter @amesthehawk
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Who Kelly is: The Philadelphia-based journalist maintains a strong reporting portfolio and social-media presence, covering labor issues and cultural phenomena for the likes of Teen Vogue, the New York Times, Washington Post, Esquire and GQ. She also served as Noisey’s heavy metal editor for five years.
Kelly’s debut book, “Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor,” hits shelves just after the festival ends, on April 26.
Where to catch her at the festival: Take this Job panel, 11:45 am April 23 at Tiger Hotel
Find Kelly online: https://about.me/kimkelly or on Twitter @GrimKim
Who Leichter is: The Columbia University professor made a serious splash with her debut novel, 2020’s “Temporary.” The story of a temp worker who is privy to all manner of scenarios and experiences made year-end lists at NPR, Publishers Weekly, Vulture and more. The New York Times compared it to “a comic and mournful Alice in Wonderland set in the gig economy.”
More is on the way, with news that Leichter has novels set for release in 2023 and 2024.
Where to catch her at the festival: Take This Job panel, April 23
Find Leichter online: https://www.hilaryleichter.com/ or on Twitter @hilsaphina
Who Nagamatsu is: The Minneapolis-based professor and novelist is garnering serious buzz for this year’s “How High We Go in the Dark,” an oddly prescient portrait set after a pandemic. Goodreads has called Nagamatsu’s work “a science fiction novel-in-stories.” The book has received love from the likes of Roxane Gay, who made it her March book pick for Literati.
Where to catch him at the festival: Author Conversation: Pop Culture, 11:45 am April 23 at Orr Street Studios; Blue Planet panel, 3:15 pm April 23 at Tiger Hotel
Find Nagamatsu online: https://www.sequoianagamatsu.com/ or on Twitter @SequoiaN
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Viet Thanh Nguyen
Who Nguyen is: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his debut novel, 2015’s “The Sympathizer,” Nguyen is a remarkably versatile writer. His work by him spans fiction — “Committed,” a sequel to “The Sympathizer,” came out last year — nonfiction and children’s literature.
A professor at the University of Southern California and frequent op-ed contributor to publications such as the New York Times, Nguyen is also deeply involved with amplifying the voices of Vietnamese creators in the diaspora; he was born there in 1971, before moving to the United States with his family four years later.
Where to catch him at the festival: Keynote event, 7:30 pm April 22 at Missouri Theater
Find Nguyen online: https://vietnguyen.info/home
Who Peynado is: An O. Henry and and Pushcart prize-winning author, Peynado’s 2021 short-story collection “The Rock Eaters” is the work of a writer who “flaunts breathtaking literary agility,” NPR’s Jason Heller said.
A writer and professor of both fiction and screenwriting, Peynado’s work reaches across a number of genres while featuring “some perfectly realistic exaggerations thrown in the mix,” her website notes.
Where to catch her at the festival: Stories of the Fantastic panel, 5 p.m. Saturday. at Tiger Hotel
Find Hairstyle online: https://brendapeynado.com/ or on Twitter @BrendaPeynado
Who Standefer is: Based in New Mexico, Standefer earned serious attention with 2020’s “Lightning Flowers.” Part memoir, part exploration of our health care systems, the book traces the author’s arc — and the route a supposed medical marvel takes — when she comes to rely on a cardiac defibrillator. Kirkus Reviews said the book is “packed with emotion and a rare, honest assessment of the value of one’s own life.”
Standefer is also a teacher, and her work has appeared everywhere from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times to The Rumpus, The Iowa Review and anthologies.
Where to catch her at the festival: Do No Harm panel, 1:30 pm April 23 at Tiger Hotel
Find Standefer online: http://www.katherinestandefer.com/ or on Twitter @girlmakesfire
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Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 573-815-1731. Find him on Twitter @aarikdanielsen.