New Orleans Book Festival announces lineup of best-selling authors


Mike Fitts kicks off a press conference announcing the New Orleans Book Festival | Courtesy of Tulane University

Colin Threlkeld, Senior Staff Reporter

Tulane officially announced that it will host the 2020 New Orleans Book Festival March 19-21. At a press conference Wednesday, Tulane President Mike Fitts spoke along with festival co-chairs Walter Isaacson and Cheryl Landrieu as well as Emily Wolff, director the New Orleans Office of Youth and Families.

Fitts opened the press conference with some background on the festival. Originating with the New Orleans Children’s Book Festival in 2010 under the leadership of then-First Lady of New Orleans Cheryl Landrieu, the event eventually grew into something more closely resembling its current form, featuring authors writing for all age groups.

The partnership between Tulane and the New Orleans Book Festival was “a marriage made in heaven,” according to Fitts.

Landrieu thanked President Fitts for his leadership in helping bring the event together. She expressed her gratitude to the Newcomb College Institute and the many university deans who helped bring the festival together.

Wolff said Mayor Latoya Cantrell is enthusiastic about the event. In particular, Wolff conveyed that Cantrell has stressed the importance of the festival being used to promote literacy in New Orleans, a city whose literacy rate is well below the national average.

Wolff also drew attention to the festival’s Family Day, scheduled for Saturday, March 21, which will bring youth-serving organizations, libraries and other community groups onto campus as a resource for New Orleanians.

Tulane professor, best-selling author and festival co-chair Walter Isaacson rounded out the speakers. Isaacson, who was largely responsible for bringing many of the national speakers to the festival, began his remarks by joking with his co-chair about how hard his job was.

“Tell me how hard it is to recruit authors to New Orleans,” Isaacson quipped.

Walter Isaacson addresses the crowd gathered in the LBC | Courtesy of Tulane University

He went on to highlight some of the major speakers scheduled to attend the festival. The scheduled keynote speaker, John Grisham, is one of just three authors — the others being Tom Clancy and J.K. Rowling — to have sold two million copies on a first printing.

The festival will also feature a live broadcast of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” hosted by Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough in the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life.

Isaacson stressed the diversity of authors scheduled to attend, with the festival bringing national, local and Tulane-based writers together on the university’s campus. While there will be plenty of panels for Tulane and New Orleans community members to attend, Isaacson said he is particularly looking forward to having world-class authors hanging out on Tulane’s campus, where they will be able to interact with Tulane students and faculty.

The festival is being planned as an “open event” according to Isaacson, meaning most events should be free and open to the public. The accessibility of speakers and events to all members of the New Orleans community was a recurring theme in the remarks of all four speakers.

Isaacson wrapped up by circling back to Mayor Cantrell’s “mandate” to organizers that the festival be a vehicle for promoting literacy in the New Orleans community.

More speakers and events will be announced leading up to the beginning of the festival on March 19. The confirmed speakers so far include:

Iñaki Alday, Jason Berry, Roy Blount, Jr., Beau Boudreaux, Donna L. Brazile, David Brooks, Sarah M. Broom, Jill Conner Browne, Mika Brzezinski, Richard Campanella, Jean Case, Steve Case, Dave Eggers, Emma Fick, Malcolm Gladwell, Eddie Glaude, Annette Gordon-Reed, Richard Grant, Roberta Brandes Gratz, John Grisham, Yuri Herrara, Margarita Jover, Molly Kimball, Mitch Landrieu, Erik Larson, Nancy Lemann, Nick Lemann, Michael Lewis, Eric Motley, Peter S. Onuf, Tom Piazza, Lawrence N. Powell, Samantha Power, Sister Helen Prejean, Carol McMichael Reese, Susan Rice, Joe Scarborough, Alon Shaya, Anne Snyder, Michael Strecker, Evan Thomas, Sean Tuohy, Sheba Turk, Mark VanLandingham, Kim Vaz-Deville, Darren Walker, Henry Walther and Chris Yandle.

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