In Search of Ourselves: Creative Nonfiction at the 2017 Festival


Psychologist Lev Vygotsky said, “through others we become ourselves.” True, too, that we find ourselves through our immediate surroundings and through the lens of our own history. The Virginia Festival of the Book casts light on a number of writers who seek to show us exactly that: how they came to know themselves better, and how we might do the same for ourselves. Some highlights from upcoming creative nonfiction programs in the Festival include:

In Hallow This Ground by Colin Rafferty, we meet an engaging writer who seeks answers to questions in his search to discover what connects us all to each other. His experience of visiting historical memorials and monuments–indeed, in his endeavor the learn the difference between both–taught him much about the human mind and heart. Here, he details his own journey. He’ll be discussing his work on Wednesday, March 22 in Monuments and Memory: How We Share History alongside photographer Jeanine Michna-Bales.

Neal Snidow‘s Vista Del Mar presents a riveting, expressive memoir that captures the essence of place and time. Here, the banal has been turned on its head and we view it all through a prism of pure wonder. Joining him on Thursday, March 23 for a program titled Memory as Art, Place, Jon Kay, Theresa Kubasak, and Gabe Huck will join Snidow in discussing their beautifully creative work about the numerous ways we can see lives.

When the World Breaks Open by Seema Reza tells the heartbreaking but ultimately affirming story of Reza’s struggle to find purpose and meaning, and lead her own life. Don’t miss her reading at the annual Challenge Into Change program, followed by the recognition of local writers whose work celebrates the power of storytelling as a way towards healing and empowerment.

Denise Low‘s The Turtle’s Beating Heart is a chronicle of her own grandparents’ odyssey through a life of much pain and loss. Low discovers part of herself in her retelling of their life story; she illuminates her own identity through the past of her ancestors. Together with Ben Kessler, author of Rivers of Wind, she will share lyrical stories of the past and of nature, heritage, and memory at Touching Land and Nature on March 24. Whether it’s in Kessler’s experience with the trees and land around him, or the complex interactions between various cultures and people, his memoir shows that if we aren’t in touch with our environment, our history, our surroundings, we may not ever truly know ourselves: because that is where we begin and end.

by Anna Patra