Brandon Taylor, author of Filthy Animals, will speak as part of the Tenderness panel at the Portland Book Festival.
Brandon Taylor, author of Filthy Animals, will speak as part of the "Tenderness" panel at the Portland Book Festival. penguin random house

The 2021 Portland Book Festival will be offering something new to festival goers this year by hosting the first hybrid virtual and in-person event in its history.

The virtual festival will take place from November 8 through November 12 at, while the in-person day is November 13. Access to the virtual platform will be via a sliding scale ($0–$100) pass, and one pass includes access to all five days of virtual events.

One of the perks of having a virtual festival is that authors around the country can easily participate. The nightly events will feature variety-show style interviews with a panel of three authors whose work shares similar thematic connections under the umbrellas of: Tenderness, Freedom, Home, Love & Loss, and Hidden Worlds.

Additionally, The Archive Project will be featuring four podcast panels with authors covering a range of topics, from witches and change to reunion and collective wisdom.

These are my highlights for what the Portland Book Festival’s virtual portion has in store this year. (Tune in next week for our in-person picks for the 13th.)

Theme: Tenderness —The Book Festival’s opening event will feature poet Donika Kelly in conversation with poet and professor Christopher Rose about her new collection, The Renunciations; Kirsten Valdez Quade sharing her debut novel The Five Wounds with Portland Monthly’s Fiona McCann; and Brandon Taylor discussing his best-selling story collection Filthy Animals with author Genevieve Hudson.

The Renunciations focuses on the journey of shifting one’s sense of self in the face of trauma, and the home one builds inside oneself after reckoning with the most devastating confrontations of what a person can bear and how families harm themselves. The Five Wounds follows a New Mexican family’s year of love and sacrifice, as Amadeo Padilla’s 15-year-old daughter shows up pregnant on his doorstep during Holy Week, and spans the first year of the baby’s life as five generations of the Padilla family converge.

Filthy Animals expands upon the promise made in Taylor’s debut, as he focuses on the tensions among friends, family, lovers, and others as he portrays intimacy, pain and desire for love.
Monday, Nov. 8, 7 pm.

Theme: Freedom—Through art and words, “freedom” will be discussed through the lens of cartoonist Aminder Dhaliwal, author of the graphic novel Cyclopedia Exotica, and OPB’s Tiffany Camhi; Nathan Harris, debut author of The Sweetness of Water, with author Gabriel Urza; and award-winning essayist, poet and critic Maggie Nelson, author of On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint, with journalist and author Masha Gessen.

Cyclopedia Exotica captures the experiences and xenophobia in the interior lives of the cyclops community, a largely immigrant population, while commenting on race, beauty and belonging in a parallel world. The Sweetness of Water focuses on the unlikely bond between two freedmen who are brothers, and the Georgia farmer whose alliance will alter their lives, and his, forever. On Freedom analyzes these complexities in the realm of art, sex, drugs and climate while exploring how we might think, experience or talk about freedom based on the conditions of our day.
Tuesday, Nov. 9, 7 pm.

Theme: Love & Loss—Through the genre of romance to memoir and poetry, this theme will be discussed by best-selling author Jasmine Guillory, author of While We Were Dating, in conversation with managing director of Artists Repertory Theatre Kisha Jarrett; memoirist Danielle Henderson of The Ugly Cry, with Live Wire; and poet Devon Walker-Figueroa speaking about her collection Philomath with poet Jennifer Perrine.

While We Were Dating tells the story of advertiser Ben Stephens and movie star Anna Gardiner. As the two strike up an unexpected romance during Stephens’ ad campaign, their real-life fling has the opportunity to become something more in the Hollywood spotlight, and life’s complications start to set in. The Ugly Cry tells Henderson’s story of being abandoned at ten years old and being raised by her grandparents in a mostly white neighborhood in upstate New York. She shares how she grew up “Black, weird and overwhelmingly uncool,” and the lessons she’s carried throughout her life while upending our conventional understanding of family.
Friday, Nov. 12, 7 pm.

TAP@PBF: Witches—Available only as a podcast episode on The Archive Project in conjunction with Portland Book Fest, Authors A. K. Blakemore of The Manningtree Witches and Rivka Galchen of Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch discuss the topic of witches with OPB moderator Crystal Ligori.

The Manningtree Witches follows the residents of a small English town in the thrall of the seventeenth-century witch trials, and the young woman tasked with saving them all from themselves as a Witchfinder General arrives and begins asking questions about what the women on the margins of the community are up to. In Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch, Katharina, who is known for her herbal remedies and children’s successes, is accused of poisoning a community member. Katharina’s son, the imperial mathematician Johannes, defends his mother as she confides her side of the story to her friend and next-door neighbor, imperiled by his own secrets.

Tickets and more information about the Portland Book Festival events can be found here.