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Texas Book Festival reveals Colson Whitehead, Sandra Cisneros, more for 2021

Eric Webb
Austin 360
Texas Book Festival, seen here in 2018, will return to in-person events this year after going entirely virtual in 2020.

Texas Book Festival has revealed the first round of literary stars set to appear as part of this year's event.

Authors like Colson Whitehead, Sandra Cisneros and Elizabeth McCracken will take part in the 2021 edition of the festival, which will contain both in-person and virtual programming. The literary fun kicks off with digital events Oct. 25-28; the festival will welcome attendees to downtown Austin Oct. 30 and 31.

"It's a creative time in the literary events space," Texas Book Festival literary director Matthew Patin said in a statement. "We're in an in-between era, and having both virtual and in-person formats gives us the opportunity to host conversations among authors and readers in whichever way they prefer."

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Colson Whitehead speaks about his book "Zone One" at Texas Book Festival in 2011. He'll return to the festival this year with the book "Harlem Shuffle."

Whitehead is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, renowned for works like "The Underground Railroad" (which recently was adapted as an Amazon Prime Video series) and "The Nickel Boys." He'll appear at Texas Book Festival to present "Harlem Shuffle," a novel centered on that New York City neighborhood in the early 1960s. 

Cisneros, a frequent Texas Book Festival presence known for works like "The House on Mango Street," will present "Martita, I Remember You / Martita, te recuerdo," which the festival describes as "an intimate tribute to youthful friendships that transcend time."

"House on Mango Street" author Sandra Cisneros is on the lineup for this year's Texas Book Festival.

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Local luminary McCracken, the author of books like "Bowlaway" and also a faculty member of the University of Texas' Michener Center for Writers, will appear in support of her new short story collection, "The Souvenir Museum."

Also revealed as part of this year's author lineup: novelist and 2016 Kirkus Prize finalist Amor Towles ("Rules of Civility," "The Lincoln Highway"), children’s author R. J. Palacio ("Wonder," "Pony") and Austinite Lawrence Wright ("The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid").

The festival also announced that the lineup will include authors Rumaan Alam ("Leave the World Behind"), Benjamin Alire Saìenz ("Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World"), Mary Gaitskill ("The Devil’s Treasure"), Gabriela Garcia ("Of Women and Salt"), Maggie Nelson ("On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint"), Raj Patel ("Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice"), former American-Statesman staffer Don Tate ("Pigskins to Paintbrushes"), Sergio Troncoso ("Nepantla Familias: An Anthology of Mexican American Literature on Families in Between Worlds") and Cecily Wong ("Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide").

Related:Texas Book Festival coming back in a hybrid format in 2021

"We want to bring these incredible voices to you wherever you are, whether you’re on Congress Avenue in downtown Austin or at home in El Paso," Claire Burrows, the festival's deputy director, said in a statement about this year's hybrid event.

Matthew McConaughey headlined last year's Texas Book Festival, which was held entirely online due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event was founded in 1995, and it's typically held every fall in and around the Capitol.

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As of early this week, hospitalizations and cases of coronavirus are continuing to rise and recently reached levels likely to send Travis County back into the stricter Stage 4 guidelines, according to Austin Public Health officials, likely due to the highly contagious delta variant. Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority, said the majority of hospitalizations in Austin and Travis County are among those who have not been vaccinated.  

The full lineup for this year's Texas Book Festival will be announced later this summer. Go to texasbookfestival.org for more information.

Texas Book Festival Book Club with Austin360

The book club's July pick is "God Spare the Girls" by Kelsey McKinney. Tune in at 7:30 p.m. on July 29 for a conversation with McKinney author Lyz Lenz. More details at facebook.com/groups/austin360bookclub.