Albom and Lethem Headline Fall for the Book Festival

Posted: June 25, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Ryann Doyle

Mitch Albom
Mitch Albom

Northern Virginia’s largest and oldest literary event, the Fall for the Book Festival, returns to Mason Sept. 23–28 with literary stars Mitch Albom and Jonathan Lethem as headliners.

Albom, author of the most successful hardcover debut novel, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” will be presented with the Fairfax Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Literary Arts on Sept. 25. This award recognizes an author whose works have made significant contributions to American and international culture and whose personal efforts have helped the wider community of writers, particularly younger writers. Albom is also the author of “Tuesdays with Morrie,” which spent more than four years on the New York Times best seller list.

Surpassing the impressive success of his own writing, Albom has founded three organizations in the metropolitan Detroit area to help others less fortunate. They include the Dream Fund, which encourages disadvantaged children to become involved in the arts; A Time to Help, an organization that helps to staff shelters, build homes for Habitat for Humanity, and operate meals on wheels programs for the elderly; and the S.A.Y. Detroit, which serves the city’s homeless population.

Jonathan Lethem, a fiction writer who has published 14 books in the past 13 years, will be honored with the Mason Award. The Mason Award, named for the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, George Mason, serves as a reminder of Mason’s ideals and efforts and celebrates the freedom of speech he helped secure.

Jonathan Lethem
Jonathan Lethem

Lethem’s 1999 novel, “Motherless Brooklyn,” which featured a hardened detective with Tourette’s syndrome, won the Macallan Gold Dagger for crime fiction, the Salon Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. It was also named best book of the year by Esquire. In 2005, Lethem earned a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation, which noted how the author “expands the frontier of American fiction.”

Lethem will read from his recent work and accept the Mason Award on the festival’s closing night, Sept. 28.

According to festival organizers, biographers and historians have become a popular strand of interest in the past few years, so this year’s festival includes more authors from these genres.

Nikki Giovanni, author of a National Book Award finalist, “Gemini”; Robert Draper, prize-winning journalist and author of “Inside the Bush White House: The Presidency of George W. Bush”; and Orville Vernon Burton, author of the Pulitzer-nominated, “In My Father’s House are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina,” are among the internationally known authors scheduled to appear at the festival.

What began in 1999 as a two-day literary festival, organized by Mason and the City of Fairfax, has expanded into a weeklong, regional festival. Last year, some 10,000 people attended.

“Ultimately, Fall for the Book has a number of audiences,” says festival director Bill Miller. “We craft the schedule with an eye toward all ages — adults, teens and even younger children — and across a spectrum of genres, to provide readers with exactly what they want.”

Connecting readers and authors at all levels, the event offers book fans the chance to meet and greet their favorite authors and hear behind-the-scenes stories of writing and publishing. The festival showcases literary works in writing workshops, skits, dances and storytelling. Young people also get the opportunity to see and hear from living authors whose works they have read in the classroom.

All events are free and open to the public. Additions to the Fall for the Book Festival will be added throughout the summer. For a complete schedule and updated information, visit the Fall for the Book web site.

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