Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 22: Xhenet Aliu

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 22 - Xhenet Aliu, author of Brass
We’ve made it to the third week of 2018. How are you doing with your bookish resolutions? Are you participating in any New Year’s reading challenges? Here are a few on our radar:

The UnreadBookShelf Challenge on Instagram

2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Modern Mrs. Darcy 2018 Reading Challenge

If one of your challenges is to read a great debut novel this year, you’re going to like this week’s interview. I’m talking to Xhenet Aliu, author of the debut novel, Brass. The book that we’re discussing this week doesn’t go on sale until January 23rd, but it’s already debuted on numerous “must-read” lists. The Millions listed Brass as one of their “Most Anticipated Books of 2018.” Elle magazine named it one of their “21 Best Books of 2018.” And the list goes on.

The book’s author, Xhenet Aliu, lives in Athens, Georgia. I asked her why she set Brass in her hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut.

Xhenet Aliu Author Website

Jan. 18th – Laura Lee Smith in Conversation with Xhenet Aliu at Avid Bookshop

Jan. 23rd – Writers at Wrecking Bar Event featuring Xhenet Aliu

I’m pleased to announce that we will be posting a bonus episode of Literary Atlanta next week. I spoke to Patrisse Khan-Cullors, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. We talked about her new memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist. We’ll be releasing that episode next Monday, Jan. 22nd in advance of her appearance that night at the Carter Center.

Jan. 22nd – Patrisse Khan-Cullors Event at the Carter Center

Books Mentioned in This Episode

Brass by Xhenet AliuBrass by Xhenet Aliu





Undomesticated Wild Things by Xhenet AliuUndomesticated Wild Things and Other Stories by Xhenet Aliu

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 21: Laura Lee Smith

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 21 - Laura Lee Smith, author of The Ice House

We’re wrapping up a busy week here at the Literary Atlanta podcast. A week that included the inaugural “Beyond Books” event at The Wren’s Nest. Thanks to everyone who attended. For those who missed my conversation with Mark Pendergrast, author of City on the Verge, we’ll have a recording in a future episode of the podcast.

This week’s guest is Laura Lee Smith, the author of Heart of Palm and the recently-released The Ice House, both from Grove Press. Her short fiction was selected by guest editor T.C. Boyle for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 2015 and by guest editor Amy Hempel for inclusion in New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best, 2010. When not writing fiction, Laura works as an advertising copywriter in St. Augustine, Florida.

The Ice House follows the beleaguered MacKinnons as they weather the possible loss of the family business, a serious medical diagnosis, and the slings and arrows of familial discord. I asked Laura why she’s drawn to Florida as a backdrop for her writing and if she considers her work southern fiction.

Laura Lee Smith Author Website

Jan. 17th – Laura Lee Smith at SCAD Ivy Hall

Jan. 18th – Laura Lee Smith at Avid Bookshop, Prince Avenue Location, Athens, Ga.

Jan. 16th – A Celebration of Denis Johnson at Highland Inn Ballroom Lounge

Jan. 17th – The Big Read: In the Time of the Butterflies at Decatur Library

Jan. 18th – Kevin Young at Jimmy Carter Presidential Library

Books Mentioned in This Episode

The Ice House by Laura Lee SmithThe Ice House by Laura Lee Smith





Heart of Palm by Laura Lee SmithHeart of Palm by Laura Lee Smith

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 20: Nic Stone

Austin Miles Anderson of Vox Teen Communications with Nic Stone, author of Dear Martin
Austin Miles Anderson of Vox Teen Communications with Nic Stone, author of Dear Martin. Photo credit: Rich Eldredge.

Happy New Year! We’ve got an amazing, super-sized episode to kick off 2018 of the Literary Atlanta podcast.

This week’s guest is Nic Stone, an Atlanta author whose first novel, Dear Martin, debuted at Number 4 on the New York Times young adult hardcover bestseller list last fall. Dear Martin is a YA book whose main characters are teenagers at a fictional Atlanta prep school. The protagonist, Justyce, is an African-American teen who attends the elite school on scholarship, and he’s getting an education about race and privilege both inside and outside the classroom. Justyce writes letters to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to puzzle out what he is experiencing and to ask “What would Martin do?” in response to some of the situations he encounters.

My guest host for this episode is Austin Miles Anderson. Austin is a senior in high school with aspirations of becoming a journalist. He’s a staffer at Vox Teen Communications, a nonprofit organization, whose mission is to “connect diverse metro Atlanta teens to resources for building their confidence, increasing their capacity to meet life’s demands, and ensuring their future success” by giving them a professional, uncensored publishing platform.

Austin and I both read Dear Martin and prepared a list of questions for Nic. We recorded the interview at Vox. Thanks for Rich Eldredge, senior editor at Vox, and our producer Sean Powers for helping to make this happen.

I think you’ll agree with me that this is one of our best episodes. Thank God for books that help us question and have uncomfortable conversations.

Vox Teen Communications

Nic Stone Author Website

“Townsend Prize Finalists Announced,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution

January 9th – AJ Tata Event in Gwinnett County

January 10th – The Wren’s Nest and Literary Atlanta Present “Beyond Books” featuring Mark Pendergrast

Books Mentioned in This Episode

Dear Martin by Nic StoneDear Martin by Nic Stone





The Fire Next Time by James BaldwinThe First Next Time by James Baldwin





Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 19: Charles McNair

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 19 - Charles McNair, author of The Epicureans
Thursday, December 21, 2017 is the Winter Solstice. To most of us, the Winter Solstice is merely the shortest day of the year. Thank goodness the longest dark days of winter are behind us! For others, the solstice marks a pagan celebration, a Bacchanalia, a feast like no other.

The Winter Solstice plays a crucial role in The Epicureans, a serialized novel by Charles McNair. I talked to Charles about this eerie, fictional celebration and his decision to publish the book one chapter at a time on The Bitter Southerner in Episode 19 of Literary Atlanta.

Charles lives with his family in Bogotá, Colombia. We spoke via Skype.

I first met Charles McNair about ten years ago when he was teaching a writing workshop here in Atlanta. A native of Alabama, Charles is a storyteller of the highest order who never meets a stranger.

Although he is a prolific writer in his daily life as a freelance writer, editor and consultant on assignment to some of the world’s best known publications and businesses, Charles has only produced two book-length works in the last 30 or so years.

Of course one of those books, his first novel Land O’ Goshen, was a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Not too shabby. His long-awaited second novel, Pickett’s Charge, came out in 2013, a year that marked the 150th anniversary of that bloodiest of Civil War battles, Gettysburg. In terms of production, 2017 signals a “best of” year for Charles, as he’s had not one, but two different book-length works released.

In September, his biography of Atlanta’s first Jewish mayor, Sam Massell, was published by Mercer University Press. Charles met the 90-year-old Massell while on assignment for an alumni magazine. The two forged a partnership and the resulting book was Play It Again, Sam: The Notable Life of Sam Massell, Atlanta’s First Minority Mayor.

While Charles’s other book-length project has yet to be captured between two cardboard covers, he’s gained new fiction fans with his serialized novel, The Epicureans. Published each week or so on the online publication The Bitter Southerner, The Epicureans is in its final chapters.

Charles McNair Author Website

The Epicureans by Charles McNair on The Bitter Southerner Website

“Atlanta’s First Jewish Mayor Meets Eleanor Roosevelt in an Exclusive Excerpt from Play It Again, Sam,” Paste

Books Mentioned in This Episode

Play It Again, Sam: The Notable Life of Sam Massell by Charles McNairPlay It Again, Sam: The Notable Life of Sam Massell, Atlanta’s First Minority Mayor by Charles McNair




Pickett's Charge by Charles McNairPickett’s Charge by Charles McNair





Land O' Goshen by Charles McNairLand O’ Goshen by Charles McNair

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 18: Kim Michele Richardson

Kim Michele Richardson, author of The Sisters of Glass Ferry
Last week’s winter weather prevented Kim Michele Richardson from joining the holiday festivities at FoxTale Book Shoppe. Fortunately, I was able to catch up with her by phone. Kim Michele is a Kentucky native who lives in Louisville at present. She writes unflinchingly about the splendor and violence that co-exist in her home state—and in our world in general—in her books.

Her latest novel, The Sisters of Glass Ferry, opens with a description of a decadent strawberry birthday cake. But we quickly realize that we are not reading about a celebration. We are witnessing a family’s ritual of loss.

Kim Michele Richardson will be back in Atlanta in May. The Sisters of Glass Ferry is part of the TRIO Exhibit that I mentioned in a previous episode of Literary Atlanta. And as Kim Michele pointed out when we talked, the event at FoxTale coincides with the Kentucky Derby.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you see her wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sneaking in a flask of mint juleps. Pencil the party in on May 5th of your 2018 calendar.

Kim Michele Richardson Author Website

May 5th: TRIO Live at FoxTale Book Shoppe

Dec. 14th: Daren Wang and Peter McDade at Book Exchange Marietta

Dec. 16th: Rescheduled Wren’s Nest Victorian Holiday Party

Books Mentioned in This Episode

The Sisters of Glass Ferry by Kim Michele RichardsonThe Sisters of Glass Ferry by Kim Michele Richardson





Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 17: Kalin Thomas of The Wren’s Nest

Kalin Thomas, Program Director of The Wren's Nest
The Wren’s Nest is the Queen Anne style home of Joel Chandler Harris, located in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta. On the national register of historic places, The Wren’s Nest is a museum that’s open to the public for tours, but it’s become so much more than that in the 100+ years since Harris bought the home.

This week’s guest, Kalin Thomas, is program director at The Wren’s Nest. She joins us to talk about the historic West End and continuing the legacy of Joel Chandler Harris.

As Kalin mentions in our conversation, Literary Atlanta is thrilled to be partnering with the Wren’s Nest on a new author series called “Beyond Books.” This series will feature a monthly author talk at the Wren’s Nest. Kalin has already confirmed the first authors of the series, which kicks off next month. We’ll have more details on Beyond Books in future episodes.

The Wren’s Nest Website

Joel Chandler Harris (1845-1908) Entry in the New Georgia Encyclopedia

West End Neighborhood Website

Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural Center and Bookstore

Hammonds House Museum

December 9th Victorian Holiday Open House at The Wren’s Nest

Other Events Mentioned in This Episode

December 9th: Annual Holiday Party at FoxTale Book Shoppe

December 10th: Kristen Kish Cookbook Event at A Cappella Books

December 13th: The Southern Foodways Alliance Guide to Cocktails Event at Atlanta History Center

Literary Atlanta Podcast Episode 16: Wiley Cash

Wiley Cash, author of The Last BalladI’ve been a fan of Wiley Cash since I first heard him speak at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. He was talking about his debut novel, A Land More Kind Than Home. See, that’s what happens when you attend book events! You usually walk away wanting to read everything that author has ever written. I also loved Wiley’s follow-up book, This Dark Road to Mercy. So I was more than thrilled to get an advanced reader copy (ARC) of his latest novel, The Last Ballad, at Book Expo.

I get a little political when introducing this week’s interview with Wiley. Hopefully, he will forgive me. To be fair, he brought up the #metoo movement during our phone conversation.

The subject of Wiley’s latest novel, Ella May Wiggins, didn’t know she would become the face of a labor movement when she spent her only off day traveling to a union meeting in North Carolina. It was 1929, and Ella May was a single mother whose husband had abandoned her and their four children. She was working six days a week, 12 hours a day, at a textile mill in Bessemer City, North Carolina, and was barely able to keep her family alive. So she hopped in a stranger’s truck and traveled to another town to learn about the union. To learn more, you’ll have to read The Last Ballad.

Wiley Cash currently serves as the writer-in-residence at his alma mater of the University of North Carolina-Asheville. He also teaches in the Mountainview Low-Residency MFA program. He shares insights from his writing life, including his studying with the incredible writer Ernest J. Gaines, in this episode. Don’t miss seeing Wiley in Atlanta on December 7th.

Wiley Cash Author Website

“Ernest and Me,” Garden & Gun

“A Murdered Singer and a Strike in Gastonia: This True Story Led to ‘Last Ballad’,” Charlotte Observer

Events Mentioned in This Episode

December 7th: Writers at Wrecking Bar Event featuring Wiley Cash

December 5th: Sally Mott Freeman at Atlanta History Center

December 6th: Decatur Writers Studio Holiday Open House

Books Mentioned in This Episode

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley CashA Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash





The Last Ballad by Wiley CashThe Last Ballad by Wiley Cash





Bloodline: Five Stories by Ernest J. GainesBloodline: Five Stories by Ernest J. Gaines

Thanksgiving Break 2017

Happy Thanksgiving from Literary Atlanta

This is a brief message to let you know that we’re taking this week and next off. I’m going on vacation and next week we’re celebrating Thanksgiving here in the U.S. I hope that you and yours have a wonderful holiday ahead of you.

I did mention some bookish events happening in Atlanta in the above audio. The links are below.

Thank you for listening and being a part of the Literary Atlanta community!

Events Mentioned in This Recording

Nov. 17th: Khizr Khan at the Carter Center

Nov. 18th: FoxTale Book Shoppe hosts Karen Kingsbury at River Church in Canton, Ga.

Nov. 18th: Atlanta Chapter of WNBA hosts Laura Dave at Bookmiser in Roswell, Ga.

Nov. 25th: Indies First at independent bookstores nationwide. View our list of metro Atlanta indie bookstores on this page of the Literary Atlanta website and plan your visit.

Nov. 25th: Celebrate Indies First at Charis Books & More

Literary Atlanta Episode 15: Christopher Martin

Literary Atlanta Episode 15: Christopher Martin, author of This Gladdening Light

Christopher Martin is a native Georgian, a poet with three poetry chapbooks, and a freelance writer whose essays and poems have appeared in publications across the country. He is also an outdoorsman who regularly hikes the trails close to his home in Acworth, Georgia, which is located about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta.

His nonfiction debut, This Gladdening Light: An Ecology of Fatherhood and Faith, is billed as “part memoir, part essay collection, part spiritual journal.” Throughout the collection of essays and poems, Christopher explores universal themes of what it means to be a father, what it means to be a white man living in the South, and what it means to be a man of faith without being tethered to any one religious denomination. He’s also very in tune with nature and the writing of Henry David Thoreau.

Christopher Martin Author Website

“A Conversation with Christopher Martin about the Journey of Writing,” ArtsATL

Writers’ Night Out Event on November 10th featuring Christopher Martin and Dana Wildsmith

Other Events Mentioned in This Episode

Southern Authors at Book Exchange Marietta on November 11th

26th Edition of the Book Festival of the MJCCA Website

Books Mentioned in This Episode

This Gladdening Light by Christopher MartinThis Gladdening Light by Christopher Martin





Walden by Henry David ThoreauWalden by Henry David Thoreau





Literary Atlanta Episode 14: 26th Edition of the Book Festival of the MJCCA

Literary Atlanta Episode 14: 26th Edition of the Book Festival of the MJCCAMetro Atlanta is home to one of the largest Jewish populations in the United States. It also boasts one of the largest Jewish book festivals in the country. The 26th Edition of the Book Festival of the MJCCA begins Saturday night.

Dee Kline and Bea Goodman, Co-Chairs, 26th Edition of the Book Festival of the MjCCA
Dee Kline and Bea Goodman, Co-Chairs, 26th Edition of the Book Festival of the MjCCA. Photo credit: MJCCA

For this episode, I went “out in the field” to record my interview at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA). Thanks to Dee Kline, one of two chairs of this year’s Book Festival of the MJCCA. Bea Goodman, Dee’s co-chair, was under the weather. Bea, we hope you’re feeling better just in time for a busy two weeks of authors and books!

November is National Jewish Book Month. The Jewish Book Council’s website details the history of the Council and of Jewish Book Month. Like many good things in life, the National Jewish Book Month began with a librarian. Fanny Goldstein, a librarian at a branch of the Boston Public Library, set up an exhibit of Judaic books and started a Jewish Book Week. That was back in 1925, when there weren’t a lot of Jewish books in English. In 1927, Jewish communities around the country adopted the event, and it’s only grown from there.

Dee shared a bit of the history of the MJCCA Book Festival and highlights of this year’s programs.

As Dee mentioned, many of the big name events, like Al Franken, Dan Rather, and the Bush Sisters have already sold out. Still, you’ll find individual tickets to the other 30+ events on sale at the festival website. Most of the events take place at the MJCCA in Dunwoody.

Jewish Book Council History Web Page

26th Edition of the Book Festival of the MJCCA Website

Other Events Mentioned in This Episode

Valerie Bertinelli Event at Eagle Eye Books

Charis Books & More 43rd Birthday Celebration

Kate Hudson and Emily Giffin Event at Georgia Center for the Book

Books Mentioned in This Episode

High Noon by Glenn Frankel

Leonardo DaVinci by Walter Isaacson

Twenty-Six Seconds by Alexandra Zapruder

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff (Pam was a guest of the podcast in Episode 5)

I Wrote That One, Too by Steve Dorff

Hitler in Los Angeles by Steven J. Ross

Sister Stories by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

What Unites Us by Dan Rather

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken