Author Events Upcoming Spring and Summer Highlights

By Jason F. RSS Thu, April 25, 2024

The Free Library’s Author Events program recently added numerous events to its spring and summer lineups. Here are ten events we’re excited about — along with some accompanying media:



Karen Valby | The Swans of Harlem: Five Black Ballerinas, Fifty Years of Sisterhood, and Their Reclamation of a Groundbreaking History — In conversation with Shelly Power, The Dr. Carolyn Newsom Executive Director, Philadelphia Ballet

Thursday, May 2, 2024: 7:30 p.m. → Pay As You Wish; Register Online

Featuring: Lydia Abarça, Sheila Rohan, Marcia Sells, and Karlya Shelton

Karen Valby’s The Swans of Harlem tells the remarkable and — until now — rarely-written-about true story of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, a trailblazing troupe of Black men and women who performed some of ballet’s most iconic works for such audiences as the Queen of England, the White House, and Stevie Wonder. This history focuses on five foundational members of the group and their enduring bond, including Lydia Abarça, the first Black prima ballerina with a major international dance company, the first Black ballerina on the cover of Dance magazine, and an Essence cover star; and her equally accomplished friends, Gayle McKinney, Sheila Rohan, Marcia Sells, and Karlya Shelton. Valby is a frequent contributor to Vanity Fair and has also published work in The New York TimesO MagazineGlamourFast Company, and EW, where she spent 15 years writing about culture.

Shelly Power brings to Philadelphia Ballet (formerly Pennsylvania Ballet) her experiences in various artistic and executive leadership roles at Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland and Houston Ballet Academy. Since joining Philadelphia Ballet in 2018, Ms. Power has restructured the organization’s administrative functions with new, innovative partnerships, to promote that ballet is for everyone. Ms. Power received a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Houston, focusing on Business, Psychology, and Fine Arts. She furthered her education at Rice University’s Leadership Institute for Non-Profit Executives and Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management’s Advanced Certification in Non-Profit Management.

Watch an ABC News profile of the Swans of Harlem and their transformative art.



Erik Larson | The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War

Sunday, May 5, 2024: 7:30 p.m. → Ticket Required ($45 with Book)

"America’s most compelling popular historian" (The Christian Science Monitor), Erik Larson is the bestselling author of eight critically acclaimed books, including The Splendid and the Vile, a chronicle of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz; In the Garden of Beasts, the story of the first American ambassador to Nazi Germany; The Devil in the White City, a history of the serial killer who stalked attendees of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago; and Dead Wake, the tale of the 1915 sinking of the RMS Lusitania. A former features writer for The Wall Street Journal and a contributing writer for Time magazine, he has contributed articles to The New YorkerThe Atlantic, and Harper’s, among other publications. In The Demon of Unrest, Larson delves into the five pivotal months preceding the Civil War to expose the controversies, crises, and personalities that led America into its bloodiest war.

Check out Larson’s classic interview with Conan O’Brien.



Renée Watson | skin & bones: A Novel — In conversation with Jeannine Cook, owner of Harriett’s Bookshop and Ida’s Books

Wednesday, May 8, 2024: 7:30 p.m. → Pay As You Wish; Register Online

Renée Watson is the number-one New York Times bestselling author of 15 young adult books, including Piecing Me Together, which earned a Coretta Scott King Award and a Newbery Honor; The 1619 Project: Born on the Water, co-authored with Nikole Hannah-Jones; Love is a Revolution, a 2021 Booklist Editor’s Choice; and numerous other middle-grade novels and picture books. A writer-in-residence at The Solstice low-residency MFA creative writing program, she sits on the Council of Writers for the National Writing Project and the Academy of American Poets’ Education Advisory Council. In Watson’s new adult novel, skin & bones, a woman struggles with self-love and motherhood after a wedding day confession.

Watch Watson discuss the importance of readers being reflected in the stories they read.



Jen Psaki | Say More: Lessons from Work, the White House, and the World

Friday, May 10, 2024: 7:30 p.m. → Ticket Required ($17.50 or $38.00 Book with Ticket)

An “unflappable and genial point-person” (The New York Times), Jen Psaki served as the 34th White House Press Secretary under President Biden until May 2022. Currently the host of MSNBC’s Sunday afternoon and Monday evening program, Inside with Jen Psaki, she spent the previous 20 years in public service. This includes stints as White House Communications Director under President Obama, as the spokesperson for the State Department under then Secretary of State John Kerry, work on three presidential campaigns, and numerous other campaign and communication roles. In Say More, Psaki employs her trademark wit and clearheaded analysis to reveal the surprising lessons she learned in the press room and from America’s top leaders.

Here's a collection of some of the author’s best “Psaki bombs.”



Colm Tóibín | Long Island: A Novel

Monday, May 13, 2024: 7:30 p.m. → Ticket Required ($17.50 or $37 Book with Ticket)

"His generation’s most gifted writer of love’s complicated, contradictory power" (Los Angeles Times), Colm Tóibín is the author of an impressive list of novels, short stories, essays, plays, poetry, and criticism. His novels The MasterThe Testament of Mary, and Brooklyn were shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and the last was adapted into a popular BAFTA award-winning film of the same name. The Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University, Tóibín earned an Irish PEN Award and was named the Laureate for Irish Fiction for 2022–2024 by the Arts Council of Ireland, among many other honors. Set 20 years after the events of the international bestseller Brooklyn, Long Island finds the enigmatic émigré protagonist of that book alone in her marriage and facing the travails of middle age and unfulfilled dreams.

Tóibín offers his thoughts on how writers shape the sentence that begins a book.



George Stephanopoulos | The Situation Room: The Inside Story of Presidents in Crisis – In conversation with Tamala Edwards, anchor, 6abc Action News morning edition

Friday, May 17, 2024: 7:30 p.m. → Ticket Required ($45 Book with Ticket)

Meelya Gordon Memorial Lecture

ABC News Chief Anchor, the host of This Week with George Stephanopoulos, and co-anchor of Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos joined the network in 1997 as an analyst for This Week. He previously served in the Clinton administration as the senior advisor to the president for policy and strategy. His book All Too Human, a political memoir about his time on the campaign trail and in the White House, was a number-one New York Times bestseller. A member of the board of directors at the Michael J. Fox Foundation and former Rhodes Scholar, Stephanopoulos’ many honors include three Emmy Awards, a DuPont Award, three Murrow Awards, and two Cronkite Awards. In The Situation Room, he offers an insider’s perspective on the highly restricted space in which 12 presidents have made their most critical, history-changing decisions.

Stephanopolous tells Seth Meyers what it’s really like in the Situation Room.



MK Asante | Nephew: A Memoir in 4-Part Harmony – In conversation with Molefi Kete Asante

Thursday, May 23, 2024: 7:30 p.m. → Pay As You Wish; Register Online

MK Asante is a writer, filmmaker, hip-hop artist, and recipient of the Langston Hughes Award. His books include It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop, the poetry collection Like Water Running Off My Back, and the bestselling memoir Buck, the “brilliant and always engaging” (Los Angeles Times) story of his harsh but transcendent path from the streets of North Philadelphia to artistic liberation. His documentary film The Black Candle, co-written with Maya Angelou, illuminates the relevance of the principles of Kwanzaa. Asante is the host and co-executive producer of While Black, a Snap Original docuseries co-produced by NBCUniversal. His essays on art, technology, and culture have appeared in The New York TimesSan Francisco Chronicle, and USA Today. His latest book began as a series of raw and inspirational letters written in a Temple University Hospital emergency room as his nephew Nasir fought for his life after being shot nine times. In those moments, Asante realized he had to tell his brother’s son the truth about his father, Uzi, whom Nasir had never met.

Molefi Kete Asante is a professor in the Department of Africology at Temple University, where he created the first PhD Program in African American Studies in 1988. Also the president of the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies, he is Professor Extraordinarius at the University of South Africa, was the first director of UCLA’s Center for Afro-American Studies, and is the founder of The Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies, a thinktank in Philadelphia. With more than 100 books and 500 articles published, Asante has been recognized as one of the ten most widely cited African scholars, and he was the founding editor of the Journal of Black Studies, where he served for 53 years. He's received numerous awards and honors for his scholarship and activism, has appeared on television programs across five continents, and has consulted for several heads of state in Africa.

Here Molefi Kete Asante offers an overview of Afrocentricity.



Julian Randall | The Dead Don’t Need Reminding: In Search of Fugitives, Mississippi, and Black TV Nerd Shit – In conversation with Kirwyn Sutherland

Thursday, June 6, 2024: 7:30 p.m. → Pay As You Wish; Register Online

Julian Randall is the author of the poetry collection Refuse, the winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, and a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He was a contributor to the number-one New York Times bestseller Black Boy Joy and his middle-grade novels, Pilar Ramirez and the Escape From Zafa and its sequel Pilar Ramirez and the Curse of San Zenon, were published to popular acclaim in 2022 and 2024. His other poetry and essays have appeared in The AtlanticVibe, and Ploughshares, among other publications. The recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem and Tin House, Randall has been honored with the Frederick Bock Prize and a Pushcart Prize. The Dead Don’t Need Reminding explores the complexities of family, grief, pop culture, and American life through the fraught true story of Randall's return from the abyss edge of depression and his quest to retrace the steps of his white-passing grandfather’s flight from a dangerous Mississippi town.

A Clinical Research Professional and poet, Kirwyn Sutherland has contributed work to American Poetry ReviewCosmonauts Ave.Blueshift Journal, and The Wanderer, among other publications. He is also the author of the chapbook Jump Ship, is a Watering Hole fellow, served as poetry editor for APIARY Magazine, and has attended workshops and residencies at Cave Canem, Poets House, and the Pearlstein Art Gallery at Drexel University.

Randall answers three questions about the creation of his new book.



Rev. William J. Barber II | White Poverty: How Exposing Myths About Race and Class Can Reconstruct American Democracy – In conversation with Matthew Desmond

Monday, June 10, 2024: 7:30 p.m. → Pay As You Wish; Registration Required to Attend

A Protestant minister, professor, social activist, and founding director of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School, Reverend William J. Barber II is president of the nationally recognized Repairers of the Breach and the architect of the Forward Together Moral Movement. A former president of the North Carolina NAACP and currently a member of the board of directors of the national NAACP, he will lead the Poor People’s Campaign’s March on Washington in June 2024. Barber is also a MacArthur fellow, the author of the books Forward Together and The Third Reconstruction, and has been featured in a wide array of media outlets. Written with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, founder of the School for Conversion and assistant director of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School, White Poverty examines how a greater understanding of the universal nature of poverty could decrease racism and unite millions of Americans of all stripes.

Matthew Desmond is the Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology at Princeton University and the founding director of the Eviction Lab. His most recent book, Poverty, by America, published in hardcover in 2023, was a number-one New York Times bestseller. His previous book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award, among others. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Desmond is also a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine.

Rev. Barber’s appearance on Democracy Now! to discuss his fight against poverty, climate change, and more.


Rachel Cusk | Parade: A Novel

Tuesday, June 18, 2024: 7:30 p.m. → Tickets Required ($17.50)

Rachel Cusk is the author of the Outline trilogy, a "brilliant, insightful" (The Guardian) series of experimental autobiographical novels that won wide critical acclaim and popular readership. Exploring wide-ranging but personal themes of motherhood, life’s transitional moments, and what separates us from others, her other many novels include The Country LifeThe Lucky Ones, and Second Place. Cusk is also the author of a plethora of works of nonfiction, memoirs, plays, and short stories. A Guggenheim Fellow, her other honors include the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Somerset Maugham Award, and her work has been shortlisted for numerous major awards. An expansive contemplation of what fiction can be, Parade follows the many incarnations and canvases of a single painter.

Cusk offers advice to young writers.

Check out for our full spring and summer schedule.

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