Festival of Books celebrating 20 years

SDHC image

BROOKINGS – The South Dakota Festival of Books will mark two milestones – its 20th year and the 50th anniversary of the South Dakota Humanities Council – when readers and writers gather Friday through Sunday in Brookings.

Organizers of the state’s premier literary event expect a celebratory mood among authors and attendees as in-person activities resume after two years of virtual festivals. 

“The state and regional community of readers is close-knit and enthusiastic, and they’ve missed this event,” festival director Jennifer Widman said. “They’re eager to get back together, to talk about books face-to-face, and to shake the hands of the writers they admire.”

The 2022 festival features more than 60 presenters taking part in readings, lectures, panel discussions, workshops and book signings. 

Among the featured authors are Emily St. John Mandel, whose critically acclaimed novel “Station Eleven” was made into a streaming series on HBO Max; Terrance Hayes, author of the National Book Award-winning poetry collection “Lighthead”; and perennial favorite William Kent Krueger, whose latest mystery, “Fox Creek,” debuted at No. 5 on the New York Times best sellers list.

Also presenting a keynote address is Nick Estes, author of the 2022 One Book South Dakota, “Our History Is the Future.” Book clubs around the state have read and discussed the book, which places the recent #NoDAPL movement in the context of two centuries’ worth of Indigenous resistance to oppression and injustice. 

“Estes addresses challenging and often controversial issues through the lens of his training as a historian and his culture as a member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe,” Widman said. “His breadth of knowledge allows him to guide readers and listeners through these difficult topics and perhaps come to understand them in a fuller way.”

While the festival brings in big names and top sellers from around the nation, at least half of its author roster is made up of writers who live in, write about or have some connection to South Dakota. Local presenters include Brookings residents Jodi Andrews, W. Carter Johnson, Bonny Specker, George Tsakiridis and Steven Wingate. 

The event annually draws 8,000 to 10,000 session attendees, counting almost 5,000 students who meet children’s/YA authors and illustrators at festival events and school visits. Activities for Young Readers kick off today at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls and continue Friday and Saturday at the Children’s Museum of South Dakota in Brookings. Featured speakers include award-winning Cherokee author Traci Sorell, Sioux Falls illustrator Hector Curriel and Cajun musician, storyteller and cartoonist Mike Artell. 

All festival sessions are free except a Thursday evening author reception and several small group writing workshops. Attendees can buy tickets for these events and register for Saturday evening’s free anniversary party at SDBookFestival.com. 

The complete author roster and a full schedule of events is also available on the website.