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The Reading Life with Albert Woodfox

This week on The Reading Life: New Orleans native Albert Woodfox, author of “Solitary: My Journey of Transformation and Hope.” He is the last of the group known as the Angola 3 to be released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. This memoir describes his early life, as well as how he survived more than four decades in solitary confinement, more than any other incarcerated man in America.

Web extras

Woodfox talks about giving voice to the experience of life in prison and solitary confinement.
Woodfox reads a poem about his mother and talks about the prison system.

Here’s what’s on tap in the literary life this week:

Here in New Orleans:

  • Sunday, March 17, is the final day of The Friends of the Jefferson Public Library Big Book Sale at the Pontchartrain Center, Williams Blvd. at the Lake, in Kenner. Hours are noon to 5 p.m.
  • Nordette Adams is the featured poet and S. Gerald Clark is the featured artist at the March Unlikely Salon, Monday, March 18, at 7 p.m. at Zeitgeist Theatre’s new location, 6621 St. Claude Ave. in Arabi.
  • Christopher G. Pena discusses his book, “Death Over a Diamond Stud, The Assassination of a New Orleans District Attorney,” Tuesday, March 19, at 7 p.m. at the East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon, Metairie.
  • The Tulane University Law School, along with the National Book Foundation, presents a panel discussion, “The Gravity of Bearing Witness,” featuring poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, novelist Reginal Dwayne Betts, novelist and public defender Sergio de La Pava, along with professor Jancy Hoeffel, Becki Kondkar, and Katherine Mattes. The event takes place Tuesday, March 19 at 5 p.m. at the Tulane Law School’s John Weinmann Hall, 6329 Freret St., room 110.
  • Albert Woodfox discusses and signs “Solitary: My Journey of Transformation and Hope,” Wednesday, March 20, at 6 p.m. at the New Orleans Public Library Main Library, 219 Loyola. He will appear with Emily Maw of Innocence Project New Orleans.
  • Bryan Wagner discusses and signs his book,” The Life and Legend of Bras Coupe: The Fugitive Slave Who Fought the Law, Ruled the Swamp, Danced at Congo Square, Invented Jazz, and Died for Love,” Wednesday, March 20 at 6 p.m. at Garden District Book Shop.
  • Amanda Emily Smith is the featured reader at the Blood Jet Poetry Series, Wednesday, March 20, at 7 p.m. at the Dragonfly, 3921 St. Claude Ave.
  • The University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop will host a reading by poets Toi Derricotte and Chioma Urama on Wednesday, March 20, at 8 p.m., at the UNO Lakeside Campus, Liberal Arts Building, Room 197. The reading will be followed by a Q&A, booksigning, and brief reception. 
  • The University of New Orleans Press is hosting a university-wide fundraiser called The Write-A-Thon, sponsored by local businesses. Across 20 hours on March 20 and 21st, students faculty, staff and the greater New Orleans community will write, host and attend workshops and lectures and participate in readings and events, all while raising money for the UNO Scholarship fund and university departments. Think of it as a charity marathon, with writing instead of running. For more info, check out unopress.org/write-a-thon or go to the Qgiv.com platform to register or donate.
  • Poet Toi Derricotte and fiction writer Sherrie Flick are the featured readers at Dogfish, Thursday, March 21, at 7 p.m. at 2448 N. Villere.
  • William Guion discusses and signs “Quercus Louisiana: The Splendid Live Oaks of Louisiana,” Sunday, March 24, from 2-4 p.m. at Garden District Book Shop.
  • And get ready for that big literary weekend in New Orleans, March 27-31, when The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival takes place March 27-31, along with the Saints and Sinners LGBTQ Literary Festival March 29-31 at the Hotel Monteleone. Some of the writers coming to town include Dorothy Allison, Jami Attenberg, Bryan Batt, Donna Brazile, Doug Brinkley, Maureen Corrigan, Michael Cunningham, Samantha Downing, Judy Grahn, Garth Greenwell, Justin Phillip Reed, Felice Picano, Bryan Washington. Check out tennesseewilliams.net or sasfest.org for the complete schedule.

In Baton Rouge:

  • Delta Mouth Literary Festival, a partnership with the Louisiana State University Department of English, The Southern ReviewNew Delta Review, and the English Graduate School Association, takes place April 5-7 at Louisiana State University. free and open to the public, the festival this year will be held April 5-7. The lineup of writers includes Jos Charles, Tia Clark, Jerika Marchan, Megan McDowell, Carrie Messenger, Thirii Myint, Dennis James Sweeney and Jeannie Vanasco. Check out deltamouth.comfor the complete schedule.

And congratulations: A big shout out to Paul Willis, the winner of the Publishing Triangle’s 2019 Leadership Award. Created in 2002, this award recognizes contributions to LGBTQ literature by those who are not primarily writers, such as editors, agents, librarians, and institutions. The winner receives $500 in a ceremony in New York April 25. The executive director of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, Paul Willis established the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans in 2003. Now in its sixteenth year, the festival has grown into an internationally recognized event that brings together a who’s who of LGBTQ publishers, writers, and readers from throughout the United States and beyond. Saints and Sinners is part of the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, and Willis serves as the executive director of both. Through his leadership, Saints and Sinners has become not simply an LGBTQ literary conference but a true community.

The Reading Life in 2010, Susan Larson was the book editor for The New Orleans Times-Picayune from 1988-2009. She has served on the boards of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and the New Orleans Public Library. She is the founder of the New Orleans chapter of the Women's National Book Association, which presents the annual Diana Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction.. In 2007, she received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the literary community. She is also the author of The Booklover's Guide to New Orleans. If you run into her in a local bookstore or library, she'll be happy to suggest something you should read. She thinks New Orleans is the best literary town in the world, and she reads about a book a day.