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NC Book Festival brings community together in unique music festival-esque way

Hanif Abdurraqib
Hanif Abdurraqib, a New York Times bestselling author, will be coming to the North Carolina Book Festival. Photo by Andrew Cenci.

The North Carolina Book Festival is a four-day event from Feb. 21 to Feb. 24 that highlights the unique literary culture within North Carolina while bringing famous authors from the rest of America and abroad to the Triangle. 

The event is hosted at seven diverse venues — from CAM, a contemporary art museum, to Neptunes Parlor, a subterranean bar in Downtown Raleigh, that allow festival-goers to immerse themselves in the local culture. The directors of the event were influenced by popular music festivals and have worked to make the event accessible and fun for people of all interests. 

The festival is showcasing a variety of different authors from cult favorites to household names like Sandra Cisneros. Other notable appearances include Jeff Jackson, Scott Huler, and New York Times best-selling author Hanif Abdurraqib.

Huler and Jackson are carrying out more interactive events. Huler will lead a tour of Raleigh's underground tunnels, a subject of his fiction. Jackson will do a discussion and live reading of his new book, "Destroy All Monsters," which is centered around crime and music in Kings, a rock and roll bar in Downtown Raleigh.

"The book has a real sort of rock and roll energy to it and definitely the book is steeped in the sort of clubs, the environment of the sort of clubs that I am going to be reading in and having the discussion with Scott McClanahan in," Jeff Jackson said.

The festival also features local talent including Mesha Maren, the 2018-2019 Kenan Visiting Writer at UNC and June Eric-Udorie, a Duke undergraduate chosen as Elle U.K.'s "Female Activist of the Year" for 2017. 

"That (venue) kind of lends itself to lose the kind of stuffy, literary atmosphere that can sometimes happen in either in academia or in sort of strictly literary book store events," Maren said about Kings Bar.

The co-directors Jason Jefferies and Chris Tonelli both said they have goals of making the festival appeal to a wide variety of readers. 

"There's something for everyone, so if you come by and just sort of wander in we think you'll find something that will be really engaging for you," Tonelli said.

The directors also discussed the music festival-esque feel of the event and the importance of making the event approachable and intertwined in the lively atmosphere of Raleigh. 

"The fact that it feels like a music festival but it's not music means we've achieved our goal," Jefferies said. " ... The act of reading can be very cool and subversive, much like the act of playing music or going to a concert can be." 

The North Carolina Book Festival as a whole is working to build bridges between bookstores, academia and more traditional literary avenues, as well as the broad community as a whole by presenting a less traditional mix of events that all center around a love of reading. 

"It's exciting to have it be in the community and the more kind of cross-pollination that we can do," Maren said. "I, when I was younger, was always hanging out with visual artists and musicians and I feel happiest when I am sharing spaces that aren't strictly literary."

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